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Educational Facts about TopSail 1
TopSail Youth Program 
Los Angeles Maritime Institute
The Education Program
The TopSail Youth Program provides experiential educational curriculum for youth aboard large sailing vessels. The venue of a tall ship as a teaching and learning platform gives participants opportunities not available in traditional classrooms. The shipboard environment is an interdisciplinary curriculum. The participants must work as a team in this unique real world classroom, the ship.
The optimum program consists of a series of 4-day sails and culminates in a 5-day voyage. While on board, seamanship, navigation, sail training and the marine environment are avenues to math, science, problem-solving coupled with hearing and understanding. Empowered participants stand watch and ultimately develop leadership skills within their respective watchgroups. This floating lab gives one-on-one lessons and is conducive for learning  in a small group atmosphere through out entire ship. 
The Curriculum
Topics within the curriculum cover a wide range of subjects and hands on experience. The ship is a classroom without appearing to be and the topics are a natural part of this classroom. Here the curriculum comes to life in an environment which can be difficult to replicate in the traditional classroom.
Seamanship (Language / Problem Solving)
  • Knot tying, splicing, and line handling
  • Application of mechanical advantage
  • Nautical and shipboard terminology
  • Helmsman and Lookout duties
  • Basic ship maintenance
  • Safety procedures and equipment
Navigation (Geometry & Algebra)
  • Charts and Piloting (maps of the water)
  • Dead Reckoning (speed, time, and distance calculations)
  • Marine Electronics: GPS (global positioning system), VHF radio, radar, etc.
  • Rules of the Road and Aids to Navigation
  • Tides and Currents
  • Marine Meteorology
  • Introduction to Celestial Navigation
Sail Training (Physics of Airfoils & Lift / Mechanical)
  • Practice of  sail (sail handling)
  • Theory of sail
  • Sail Trim
  • Maneuvering under sail
  • Physics of sail (Bernoulli Effect, etc.)
Marine Environment ( Science)
  • Oceanography
  • Marine Biology
  • Marine Geology
  • Astronomy
Sample Lessons within the TopSail Educational Environment
1) Speed/Time/Distance
Description: The correlation and interaction of these three forms of measurement are easily demonstrated and have real life meaning and application on a sailing vessel. First we begin with a tape measure and measure a section of the deck so that we have a known distance. Then we throw a biodegradable object such as a cracker over the side ahead of where our measurement on deck begins. Using a stopwatch we mark the time it takes the “cracker” to travel between our known distance. This gives us a know time. All that’s left to do at this time is calculate the speed. We can then check the accuracy of our measurement against the ships electronics.
California State Standards: 
Grade Eight - Focus on Physical Science
Motion 1. b. Students know that average speed is the total distance traveled divided by the total time elapsed and that the speed of an object along the path traveled can vary. c. Students know how to solve problems involving distance, time, and average speed.
Grade Six-Algebra and Functions
2.3 Solve problems involving rates, average speed, distance, and time. 
2) Mechanical Advantage
Description: Mechanical advantage plays an important part in raising sail on our vessels. We use block and tackle systems throughout the vessel. To illustrate this concept in a hands-on format we set the kids up to play tug of war with a block and tackle with a 4 to 1 mechanical advantage.  Smaller kids stand on the side with the greater advantage with the larger kids opposite them. The smaller kids will dominate the exercise. 
This concept can then be applied to calculate the force needed to raise various sails on the vessel with different known masses and mechanical advantage systems. For example, if the main sail has a mass of 800 pounds and a 4:1 mechanical advantage the students will determine that the force that they need to apply is 200 pounds.   
California State Standards:
Grade Seven - Focus on Life Science
Physical Principles in Living Systems (Physical Science) 6. i. Students know how levers confer mechanical advantage and how the application of this principle applies to the musculoskeletal system.
Grade Six- Number Sense
1.2 Interpret and use ratios in different contexts (e.g., batting averages, miles per hour) to show the relative sizes of two quantities, using appropriate notations (a/b, a to b, a:b).






The Los Angeles Maritime Institute (LAMI) serves to empower youth to discover their greater potential through extraordinary at-sea experiences. We envision a thriving community where every child can look to the future with confidence.

The TopSail Youth Program takes place aboard the twin brigantines, Exy Johnson and Irving Johnson, the Official Tall Ships and Maritime Ambassadors of the City of Los Angeles.

Our thanks to the Port of Los Angeles for supporting the TopSail Youth Program for more than a decade!

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