The Harbour School

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History Alive Onboard the Black Dolphin

  • 2020
  • Black Dolphin
Mike Bridges, Black Dolphin Captain
Grade 2 students testing water

Along with the happy return to normality at school, the Black Dolphin too has returned to the waters with students. From organising archeological digs to tracing the steps of the first explorers, First Mate Jay and I have had a rewarding term with welcoming students back on the boat. 

Firstly, we visited Grade 3 who had been studying the early human diaspora out of Africa into Asia, Europe and the Americas. We came into class to add a nautical flavour and looked at how early humans spread from Taiwan down through the Philippines to Hawaii, Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand. We looked at the different types of craft they used and how they navigated using the sun, stars, currents, swells, animal migrations and bird behaviour. 

Our Grade 4 students have been studying early Greeks in term one. We looked at how the Greeks became the leading merchant maritime nation in the world as a result of their design of cargo vessels and development of the use of lodestones in navigation. Students made their own compasses in class by magnetizing pins and floating them in a bowl of water.

Grade 2 students visited the Black Dolphin to learn more about the types of relationships between plants and animals. Students conducted plankton trawls and learned the secret of how to tell zooplankton from phytoplankton. They also learned about “zombie” ants and identified predatory seabirds in the Aberdeen harbour.

A particular favourite unit of ours on the Black Dolphin is the Grade 5 social studies topic on the Age of Exploration where they learn about the great explorers in the 14th to 16th century. This year, Grade 5 students who are by now no strangers on the Black Dolphin were invited on board to take on the roles of the crew aboard a traditional sailing ship. We had deckhands, sailhands, helms people, bosuns and a captain. Students raised the sails, trimmed the sails, tacked the Black Dolphin and steered a course to South Bay for lunch. After lunch, the Captain “condemned” the crew who had transgressed to walk the plank. This was a surprisingly popular punishment as everyone was all too happy to walk the plank.

Students in Grade 1 had been studying the life of the famous local 19th century pirate, Cheung Po Tsai. They came aboard the Black Dolphin and recreated his journey from galleyhand to deckhand to sailhand to Captain. They tapped their hard tack to get the “weevils” out (actually poppy seeds), scrubbed the decks, raised a sail, steered the boat, and learned to read the compass.

We will soon be welcoming Grade 3 students and High School students onboard. First Mate Jay and I had been busy at the Foundry recreating debris from a shipwreck for High School students studying forensics science to investigate as well as dinosaur fossils for our budding paleontologists in Grade 3 to discover. Stay tuned for the next chapter of the Black Dolphin adventures.

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