Ondeck! Circumnavigating the globe

London, England

While exploring the southbank of the River Thames, we were delighted to come upon a reconstruction of Sir Francis Drake’s ship, The Golden Hinde, nestled in the tight alleys near London Bridge and Borough Market. The kids had fun playing hide-and-seek from the main deck to the gun deck to the hold, among thick cannons and wooden barrels, steep ladders and rigging. We identified the fo’c’sle and poop deck, and poked our heads into the captain’s quarters and great cabin where the officers would play chess, dice and cards. This reconstruction of the original ship (England’s first to circumnavigate the world) is a fantastic way to imagine life at sea in the 16th century and leads to great discussion about history and science of the time.

The Golden Hinde ship used to circumnavigate the globe
A reconstruction of The Golden Hinde warship captained by Sir Frances Drake
  1. What kinds of challenges did the crew face on their three year voyage to circumnavigate the globe?
  2. Which countries in Europe lead maritime exploration and how did this link to colonization?
  3. What were the most important items traded at this time (1600s) between the different continents?
The helm of Sir Francis Drake's ship, The Golden Hinde
An historic playground on the southbank River Thames in London

Diving a coral reef

White Rock, Koh Tao, Thailand

Our 12-year-old completed an Open Water certification, experiencing the magical world of diving in a healthy coral reef with a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA). Diving combines the amazing physical sensation of horizontal hovering – moving up and down with an inhale or exhale – and flying, as you glide forward or backward with a flick of a flipper or wave of the hand. With sun penetrating to depth, rainbow colors of corals, fish and anemones are a textural and visual sensations. Marine critters interact: aggressive triggerfish, shy blue spotted rays, mellow grouper, showy Christmas tree worms and elusive but dramatic nudibranchs.

The magical world of a healthy coral reef.

We discussed the ecology and conservation issues of this amazing and threatened ecosystem:

  1. What is the basis of the food chain in a coral reef ecosystem?
  2. Which species are the main grazers, herbivores and predators?
  3. What is coral bleaching? What causes it to happen?
Completing a SCUBA certification requires an understanding of physics, physiology, chemistry and math. The program is challenging and rewarding – an ideal example of experience-based learning.

Living under the sea

Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, California, USA

This is an incredible aquarium with so much to see and experience. The Open Sea exhibit is a HUGE tank that allows you to observe sunfish, hammerheads, sea turtles and mahi mahi tuna. There are wonderful touch tanks of intertidal critters with knowledgeable docents to help. The sea otters and penguins are great fun to watch. For the tech-savy, the Mission to the Deep exhibit highlights research with AUVs and ROVs  exploring the Monterey Canyon.

The giant kelp forest at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Here are some great questions to talk about after exploring the touch pools:

  1. What are some ways that critters survive in the tidal zone with waves crashing over them?
  2. What is the most unique feeding strategy you learned about?
  3. How do different sea creatures use camouflage to help them survive?