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Adrift At Sea at WVIHY


     “Day 1 – Ship sinks.  Caught a turtle and drank some blood.”  “Day 2 – Lost paper clips, going to divide our food between five people.”  “Day 3 – Third day of dreadful sailing, boat got a hole in it and we had to fix it.”  “Day 6 – still starving.”  These are some of the journal entries written by students during a recent simulation which took place in the Assisted Reading class at the West Virginia Industrial home for Youth. 

      Students read portions of the non-fiction Survive the Savage Sea, by Dougal Robertson.  After learning some survival techniques and exploring how they might react in similar circumstances, students got to try it for themselves.  Inspired by a teacher contribution on the website, teacher Ruth Winters challenged her students to spend the entire class period in a “boat” measuring 9” X 4”, just as had the survivors from the story.  

     They had a small amount of salvage at their disposal but could not leave the boat to enter the shark-infested waters (man-eating paper sharks were everywhere!)  They had a length of yarn, a signal mirror, some paper clips, pencil and paper, a plastic knife, a ruler, a sinker and a roll of medical tape.  In the ocean around them were turtles, flying fish, and dorado. 

     The castaways had to figure out a way to catch the fish in order to eat (a pack of Smarties candies attached to each fish), and had to divide every bit of food among all on board.  If they caught the elusive turtle they could have a drink of turtle blood (tomato juice).  If too many stood up at once they risked capsizing.  Thankfully, at the end of the day we had not lost one man.  

     In post-simulation reflections students discussed the difficulty of being crammed into so small a space with others, and the teamwork necessary to acquire even the smallest bits of food and drink, which they then had to share.  Consensus was that the Robertson family had used their preparation, strength and skills to survive their 38 days adrift at sea.                

Ruth Winters
Posted:April 9, 2009