Education Philosophy

Research shows that hands-on inquiry-based learning experiences are the best strategy to teach science and an understanding of the world around you, to foster scientific literacy and understanding of science processes, develop vocabulary knowledge and conceptual understanding, advance critical thinking skills, and to promote positive attitudes toward science.1

Provide students with experiential learning opportunities to conduct rigorous, hands-on science.

This flexible, student-centered education strategy promotes that authentic questioning and critical thinking is the central foundation of our curriculum.  Utilizing this method encourages students to engage in interdisciplinary projects and capitalizes on students’ individual strengths in an experiential way.  At Salish, we don’t just teach students about science – we provide an opportunity for students to become scientists, studying the marine environment in the same way a professional scientist might.  Integrating the pre- and post- voyage curriculum in school with the experiential lessons aboard our floating classroom, the 61′ sailing research vessel Carlyn, and culminating with presentations at our student Symposium, we deliver the learning experiences of a lifetime.

Foster strong connections between youth and the Puget Sound marine environment.

Salish programs not only advance science education, they also foster a strong connection between youth and the marine environment and expose them to new career role models. Puget Sound is a central ecosystem in the Pacific Northwest, a major component of our watershed, and affects the lives of all Western Washington residents. The Sound provides habitat for a wide variety of life and supports major economic and recreational uses. Stewardship of Pacific Northwest natural resources will fall to the next generation of scientists, managers and involved citizens. Appreciation for, and understanding of local ecosystems is the first critical step towards being willing and eager to assume this responsibility. Providing students with a method to interact directly with the Sound is central to their understanding of the Sound, its health, the benefits it provides, and its connection to the region’s collective well-being.

Increase access of low income students to STEM educational opportunities.

A study of forty schools in twelve states found that students exposed to hands-on and environment-based approaches to learning like Salish become enthusiastic, self-motivated learners, and gain a wealth of added educational benefits including: a comprehensive understanding of their environment, advanced thinking skills leading to discovery and real world problem solving, and community involvement. (2)  However, significant gaps remain between science test scores of the affluent and poor, as well as between white and minority students.Most students in Western Washington, despite their proximity to Puget Sound, have little opportunity to connect with and constructively explore the marine realm. This is especially true for students from modest backgrounds, who are typically foreigners to the vast ecosystem in their own backyards due to the expense of boating.  We must prepare all students for jobs that require problem solving skills as well as developing habits of mind that can last a lifetime.  To that end, Salish provides significant tuition subsidies to 40% of our programs. 

1 Lindberg, D.H. (1990) What goes ’round comes ’round doing science. Childhood Education, Winter 67(2) 79-81.
2 Calsyn, C., P. Gonzales, and M. Frase. (1999) Highlights from TIMSS [Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study.] Washington D.C.: National Center for Education Statistics.

Learn more about Inquiry Based Learning.

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