Classes on board – Where worksheets learn how to swim

Have you ever been in class and suddenly a wave rushes in so hardly that the bench you are sitting on falls over and your clothes get completely soaked by salt water? I do not think so. But as a student on the Thor Heyerdahl this is daily business. And there is much more to it! In order for you to understand how lessons are working here or how you prevent your folder from falling down, I prepared the ultimate guide for how to survive classes on board.

Let’s start with the general setup: The lessons take place on deck whenever it is possible. There are three tables with benches on each side. Everything is tied to the ship but the benches are still moving around or are prone to fall over, that is why two people always have to sit down like riding a horse – one leg on each side of the bench. In the middle of the deck is a rope to hold on to when the ship’s movements get stronger. On each table are special rubber cloths that keep our folders and books from slipping down to the wet floor. Still, some students already lost their folders to Neptune. In addition, the whiteboard needs to be set up three times a day. To support the teachers, who also face many challenges while teaching, two students are responsible for helping them putting up the board and preparing the books and materials. These students change on a daily basis.

But what is the real challenge when it comes to lessons on board? Probably to stay focused, because there are so many things which can distract you from listening to the teacher. First, there is the ship’s movement and the waves that are coming in. These waves are very noisy, so only the first row of students can clearly hear the teacher. Moreover, the roaring of the engine can be really annoying. It got so loud that our german teacher Marlene created a megaphone out of a piece of paper to reach all students at their tables. The music that is usually being played in the galley and the delicious smell however, can be quite nice but still a bit distracting. Then, there are always people enjoying their freetime while you are sitting in class or a sudden sail manoeuvre makes people yell around you. Once, there was even a fish being caught during a lesson! Of course, everyone stood up to see the fish and it was pretty hard to focus on class afterwards.

So my advice for you is to always be well prepared and bring the following things: Extremely important is sun protection, this includes sunscreen, a hat and maybe sunglasses. Also, you should bring a waterproof pen in case your material gets wet. Finally, you should be quite flexible and adaptable so you do not loose your temper when magnets, pencils or folders go flying around. Oh and it might also help, if you are an animal lover because sometimes there are even flying fishes landing on deck.

But besides these challenges there are also many advantages when it comes to lessons on board. First, school only takes place every second day because you still have to join your watch. Second, it is a very short distance from your bed to the “classroom”, roughly 12 meters. Third, the classes are way more practical than at home, especially science. Once, we were asked to find out the speed of the Thor by only using some garbage from the galley. Another time we tried to find out the height of the mast without touching it. This was very interesting because these are some experiences you cannot get at normal schools. Another advantage is that you can always ask your teacher about a topic at any time, because they cannot escape. Of course I am just joking, but our teachers are extremely helpful and they always support you when you want to know more about a topic. In general you can say that school on board can be really ambitious but also a lot of fun. You learn so much more than you could ever learn at a normal school. Because in your typical classroom, your folder can not be washed away by a wave, right?