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Sailing program expands for SF’s fourth grade students

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The Set Sail Learn program hosts field trips for fourth grade students, introducing them to sailing, science and math. (Eric Risberg/AP)
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San Francisco Unified School District’s fourth grade students are literally sailing their way to the head of the class.

The Set Sail Learn program at Treasure Island Sailing Center has hosted dozens of field trips for fourth grade students in The City and now plans to expand thanks to a $120,000 grant from the St. Francis Sailing Foundation provided this fall.

First launched as a pilot initiative in 2013, the program combines sailing with science and math, as well as exposes students to the San Francisco Bay for the first time.

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Because of the grant, this school year 51 classes — more than double the 20 classes that participated two years ago — are expected to engage in the sailing field trips, which incorporate Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education with sailing lessons.

“It’s an eye opening trip for these kids,” said Travis Lund, executive director of the Treasure Island Sailing Center. “It’s a good first look for kids into a world they probably haven’t seen before.”

In fact, many of the students have never set foot on a sailboat, let alone crossed the Bay Bridge to travel from The City to Treasure Island, Lund noted.

The classroom lessons include Ecology of the Bay, Power of the Wind and Maritime Math & History along with on-the-water sailing lessons in RS Venture boats. The curriculum is tailored to align with STEM material.

“Sailing is the art of making a boat go by harnessing the power of the wind,” said Carolyn Patrick, president of the St. Francis Sailing Foundation. “There’s all kinds of aspects of that that teach science and math.”

She added, “When [students] go out on the boats and in the classroom, they’re also learning about the dynamics of the Bay, marine life that lives in the Bay, how to protect the Bay. It just becomes a springboard for teaching all kinds of STEM lessons.”

Leonard R. Flynn Elementary School fourth grade teacher Joi Jackson said in a statement that her students said the field trip helped her students experience the Bay in a way they had never before.

“Set Sail Learn engages the different learning modalities of the kids, visual, kinetic, song, dance and sailing,” Jackson said. “I saw this program touch every part of each of my children.”

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