August 28, 2010

Teach Your Children

The geological history of Baja California is a complex one. In the Mesozoic era the North American plate collided with the Pacific plate causing the mountains to rise. The North American continental plate was thicker so the Pacific plate went under it and formed a subduction zone, complete with lava spewing volcanoes.
If your eyes are beginning to roll back into your head, and you catch yourself snoring, I don’t really blame you. Except for a special few, geology isn’t that sexy a read. But we’ve discovered something while sailing through our giant classroom; if you get out into the environment, you get curious. When you get curious, you ask questions. And the answers, which might seem dry and uninteresting if you’re given them before you ever get a chance to be inquisitive, well, they become fascinating.
It was with this in mind that we woke all the kids early this morning and marched them into the desert. As they shook the sleep cobwebs from their heads, Evan told them how the Pacific plate (which the Baja and all land west of the San Andreas fault are part of) began to slowly drift north and tore the Baja peninsula off of the Mexican mainland. Then about how 5 million years ago the sea rushed in and the Sea of Cortez was born. And then, when the last ice age ended, the sea rose dramatically and the islands, including the one we were hiking across, were formed.
Maia and the kids from Hotspur and Third Day learn how the rock they are sitting on was formed
Last year we used a BC correspondence program for Maia. It was flexible and comprehensive, and it gave us enough structure that we didn’t have to think about what to teach while we were still sorting out the boat. The downfall of the program was it required us to mail back large work packages every month (a detail that became more and more difficult) and it also required that Maia get online for a certain portion of her work.
This year, we’re going with geography based education. This means, when you’re in the desert, you learn about the desert (while still learning math and English on the side). Learning this way also lends well to group field trips and multi-age learning. The little kids learn to distinguish igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks and get a brief overview of plate tectonics, while the older kids can go more in depth.
Carolyne was full of questions and interesting facts (although she didn't need to raise her hand...)
The key, for us, when we’re reinventing the educational wheel, is to make good use of every resource we can. We love it when other cruisers offer to teach skills (be it slacklining or marine biology). And I’m always on the hunt for exceptional books and websites such as this one:, which is all about the Sea of Cortez.
The result, we hope, will be a broad and exciting education that teaches Maia to think critically and to work hard at what she does. The unexpected by-product looks like it’s going to be my own enhanced education.
 Who knew that Baja California and the part of California that’s west of the San Andreas fault is eventually going to tear off the continent and become a very long island? That should make for some pretty awesome cruising…

1 comment:

Bethany said...

Great post! We're planning on doing the same sort of thing - learning about the history and the science of the places we travel to by being adventurous, inquisitive and researching, rather than reading about it in a boring text book. Looks like a fascinating place!