Publisher's Note: We are grateful to Bane for being one of the first contributors to the Journeys Corps of Storytellers.
Last fall, I went on a boat trip, but not just any boat trip. I went with
my Langley Middle School Adventure Education class. In this class, the students get to plan almost everything we do. My teacher Mrs. Richard's has worked very hard to make it possible for students to leave the school for three or four days and travel by boat to different islands and communities around the Puget Sound for hands on learning.
Now, let me add that even though it sounds like we play all the time on these trips, we engage in service-learning projects in state parks and public areas. We had to write letters to the captains, we had to plan our service-learning project with Ranger Rick Blank at Deception Pass State Park, we had to plan our menus, shop for our food and gear, learn about water safety, invasive and native species, and many other things.
The theme of our expedition was "Exploring the Past and Preserving the Future." We had three watch groups, and each watch group had a different focus to learn about, one group about the Puget Sound and the environment in the past, one in the present and one in the future. We had journal questions we had to ask the captains and others. We wanted to learn about what we could do to help the delicate condition of Puget Sound.
The first night of our expedition, we went to Hope island, a small island near Deception Pass that used to be home to 'first people' but now is a camping site for serious leave-no-trace campers. It's a beautiful State Park that you can only reach by private boats. When the boats anchored (the tugboat Mary L and the sailing vessel Cutty Sark) we started immediately bringing our gear in by the row boats. Everyone erected their tents and rolled out their sleeping bags.
Soon after, we trotted off to the service-learning site to remove the invasive species Scotch Broom on the other side of the island with Ranger Rick. At first, he asked us a few "trick" questions to joke around with us, but then began to teach us a lot of interesting things about Hope Island and the 'first people' who lived their before us.
After gorging on tacos and beans around the campfire and talking about our plans for the next day, I went to sleep. In the morning I ate a gourmet breakfast of delicious cereals (stale cheerios and milk) and some bagels. After breaking camp we left for Cornet Bay to pick up the Girls in Technology group (a school club) and head for the Swinomish Tribal Community.
To get there we had to go under Deception Pass. I was on the Cutty Sark that day, and the captain of the Cutty Sark, Captain Stone, teaches us how to run his boat, and we are all on different watch stations, like pilot house, bow watch and helm. The water in that area is really rough and lots of people got sick but we couldn't leave our watch stations just because we felt bad! I had a rude awakening when it was time to change stations, I had been leaning up against the outside wall of the Cutty Sark, and my rain overalls had been collecting water and holding it like a plastic sandwich baggie!
For our final night, we spent the night at the Swinomish Tribal Community near La Conner, and slept in their spiritual center. We put on a big dinner for members of the community and then the Eagle Heart Dancers came and sang and drummed for us, to share some of their culture with us. The drums were so powerful you could feel them inside of your body! Larry Campbell from the tribe also talked to us a lot about the history of his people and all of the things they had been through over the years.
The program is so great because I get to help the community with service learning and learn a lot at the same time. With most of the things I apply them right away to everyday life: math for navigation, latitude and longitude, speed by chip log (an ancient method of finding boat speed) and much more. Also, I learned about writing in the logbook, compass measurements and knots to use, including the bowline, square knot and timbre hitch. This is just the tip of the iceberg! We also learned a lot about ethnobotany and the Samish people's way of life is also included. The program has been a fun and exciting learning experience.