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    OBHS Physics Students Set Sail to Apply Knowledge

  • Oyster Bay High School Regents Physics classes took to the water to learn about the physics of sailing. The new opportunity, mostly funded through the PTA, was conducted in partnership with The Waterfront Center to enable students to apply what they learned in the classroom and make real-world connections.

    “Knowing that many of the students had never experienced sailing before, we designed a culminating activity that tests their Regents Physics knowledge and includes a performance-based assessment to apply to the physics of sailing,” said Ms. Janna Ostroff, K-12 Supervisor for Science and Technology for Instruction. “This was their final project of the year before the Regents to apply all they have learned throughout the year,” she said, adding, “We are very grateful to the PTA for their support.”

     Physics teacher Mr. Andrew Schlendorf collaborated with Mr. Cameron Jenness, Education Director of the Waterfront Center, to design a curriculum in which students learned both in the classroom and out on the water. Each of two physics classes spent two hours over two days on the water. 

    “Students were excited about it all year long and it helped to motivate them over the course of the year,” Mr. Schlendorf said.  “All of the students were really engaged in the sailing and in learning how physics applied to their experience.”

    The students ferried out to the sailboats and learned how to set up the boat and sails, how each part of the boat worked, how it moved, how to change direction and the quickest point of sail.

    “Students were surprised to discover that the boat could move much faster when going perpendicular to the wind as opposed to directly with the wind,” Ms. Schlendorf said.

    In addition to the physics applications, students learned “how to rig a sail and to position the sail to allow the boat to tach and jibe to achieve its fastest possible velocities,” Mr. Schlendorf said.  “Students used anemometers to measure the differences between apparent and actual winds and used physics vectors to diagram these velocities.” 

    “The sailing experience brought to life what we were learning in the classroom,” said junior Giuseppe Tumminello. “We learned how vectors can affect the way the direction the boat is sailing. Also, the direction of the wind and the pressure from the keel in the water traveling through the water can balance each other out so that determines which direction the boat goes.”


  • students are ferried to the sailboats

    Physics students are ferried to the sailboats for their physics lesson.

    physics students learn how to raise the sail on a sailboat

    Physics students learn how to raise the sail.

    students and teacher on sailboat during physics lesson

    Physics teacher Mr. Andrew Schlendorf, second from left, sets sail with students and instructors from The Waterfront Center.

    another sailboat of students

    Students, above and below, learn how to operate the sailboat while applying their physics knowledge.

    a third boat of students sets sail


    Senior Karen Sharma said, “It was fun to go on the water; the weather was beautiful and having a hands-on experience was a great way of reinforcing what we learned in class. The instructors were really informative.”

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