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Set Sail to Learn about the Environment

June 17, 2019

When youth from across the Puget Sound region climb aboard the historic schooner Adventuress they are embarking on a lifechanging journey. As they sail the waters of the Salish Sea from the ship’s home base in Port Townsend, to Olympia, Seattle, Bellingham, and the San Juan Islands, they are able to connect deeply to their environment and understand how their daily decisions impact the marine environment. 

The Adventuress is a century old National Historic Landmark tall ship operated through the nonprofit organization Sound Experience. Sound Experience, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, was awarded a Port of Seattle 2018 Environmental Excellence Award in the Education and Outreach category for their invaluable experiential youth education program. 

The programming on the Adventuress helps enhance students’ environmental understanding of the Puget Sound region with a hands-on approach to learning about watersheds, the ocean, marine food webs, human impact on the environment, biodiversity, marine animal ecology, and climate and habitat. In 2018, Sound Experience completed 44 educational sailings that reached 878 students.

“Sustainability is core to the work that we do with youth and with education in Puget Sound,” said Sound Experience Executive Director Catherine Collins. “We help kids learn about how much resources they are using on a daily basis, whether it’s water usage or fuel on the ship. Most of the ship is run by wind power as a sailing vessel, but they monitor all our resource usage on the ship when they come aboard.”

Adventuress acts like a closed system that represents planet Earth on a smaller scale.

“We’re able to look at what we’re doing and acting and how we’re living our lives collectively and how that might impact our environment,” Collins said.

Sound Experience works with local schools, youth groups, and nonprofit organizations to recruit young people into the program.

Students on bow watch copyright Elizabeth Becker
Photo copyright: Elizabeth Becker

“The kind of impact we’ve seen is pretty powerful,” Collins said. “Sometimes it changes the whole direction of a teen who starts to be interested in a maritime career. I think the most powerful impact we can have on a young person is connecting them to waterways and what that means for their lives, whether it’s recreation, the economy, or future careers.”

She said Sound Experience programs also help youth who otherwise wouldn’t get out on the water to have that experience.

“Thousands of kids live a stone’s throw from the Puget Sound or Salish Sea but never get out on it; they don’t have access,” she said. “We’re looking to change that with our partnerships including with the Port of Seattle.”

“All of us at Sound Experience believe we are all shipmates,” she said. “It’s more important than ever that people from different backgrounds and regions can come together and learn to work together side by side and navigate our waterways. We want to inspire them to care about waterways for the future and build a better life for all of that in this region.”

Top image photo credit: "IMG_7619 The Schooner Adventuress"by Jon. D. Anderson is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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