The Harbour School

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Early Navigators & Ancient Explorers Take Over the Foundry

  • Primary
  • STEAM
Tisha Del Rosario

At The Harbour School, every class will get an opportunity to visit the Foundry for an entire week to make something in an intensive skill-building setting.

Students in Grade 5 were learning about ancient navigators and early explorers in their Social Studies curriculum by learning about methods and tools used for navigation and exploring by famous explorers like Cortez, Columbus and Magellan. To foster a strong connection between the STEAM subjects, we designed an activity where students designed, fabricated and tested navigational quadrants and maps.

In order for students to have a successful project, they had to design a quadrant from a template, laser cut it, then assemble it before testing. Students used a vector design software called Gravit and became proficient at using it over the week. Many students decorated their quadrants with nautical themes. For many Grade 5 students, this was their first time to see the laser cutter in action, and they were thrilled to learn how it all works.

This activity allowed for a natural connection between the STEAM subjects. At the Harbour School, teachers value the connections between subjects, making learning transdisciplinary, experiential and project-based. The idea for the project was developed between the Foundry staff and the Grade 5 teachers.

Science: learning about navigational tools and instruments

Technology: using design software and laser cutters

Engineering: using a scale and unit of measurement for accuracy

Art: learning about vector design and nautical art

Maths: calculating distance and angles with the quadrant

To use the quadrants, students had to practice measuring the height of tall objects around the campus. By using a bit math and geometry, you can calculate the height of an object by measuring the degree of the observed angle and measuring the distance to the base of the object. Later in Term 1, these students will take their quadrants out on the Black Dolphin for a sail around Lamma Island to simulate a real early navigators experience.

Each student was able to make their own quadrant and keep them for later use. During the course of the week, we also discussed how early explorers and ancient navigators used tools like a backstaff, a compass and a map to navigate around the seas by boat. Part 2 of the activity was to create a map that showed a possible course of sail for the Black Dolphin to explore Lamma Island. In order to make an accurate map, students had to first look at Google Maps and locate landmarks on Lamma Island to add to their map. Then using the Gravit vector design software, they completed their maps, perhaps an advantage that early explorers did not have.

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