5th Grade Experiences Life at Sea on the Balclutha
The 5th graders made their annual trip to Hyde Street Pier to get a glimpse into life on a sailing ship in the early 1900s. The class boarded the Balclutha in the morning and spent the day learning about what it took to keep a large sailing vessel up and running at sea by playing the role of sailors or "lads".
The Balclutha was built to carry a variety of cargo all over the world. It was first launched in 1886 by the Charles Connell and Company shipyard near Glasgow, Scotland, The ship carried goods around Cape Horn (tip of South America) 17 times. It took a crew of about 26 men to handle the ship at sea with her complex rigging and 25 sails. In 1954 the San Francisco Maritime Museum purchased the Balclutha and restored it with donations from the local community. The ship was transferred to the National Park Service in 1978, and Balclutha was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985. Presently, the Balclutha is used to engage students through a challenging and memorable encounter with history. By living the life of a sailor aboard one of the last surviving examples of a working sail vessel in California, the students gain a better understanding of early American history, and develop a concept of historical empathy.
The class prepared for the field trip by studying maritime vocabulary and learning about the various jobs that were essential on a sailing ship. Once aboard, the "lads" participated in numerous activities such as reeving a block and tackle, rigging a Bosun's chair, rowing a longboat, cooking meals on a wood burning stove, and raising sail. As with a working vessel, the “lads” had to perform as a disciplined and reliable crew. Working aboard the Balcultha, the students learn the value of critical thinking, active listening, problem solving, teamwork, self-respect, self-reliance and leadership.