TISC Set Sail Learn STEM Program Tops 12,000 SFUSD Fourth Graders

After a fantastic outing sailing on Clipper Cove with an enthusiastic group of 4th graders from Lakeshore Elementary, TISC celebrates passing the 12,000 smiles mark for our Set Sail Learn program! Students from across San Francisco have experienced sailing on San Francisco Bay and connected their on the water adventure to a unique and engaging STEM-based lesson in our learning center. 

Clipper Cove and Bay Bridge frame Lakeshore Alternative Elementary School 4th Graders Celebrating 12,131 SSL Students since 2013.

Since Set Sail Learn’s inception in 2013, the program has served students from 70 schools encompassing every SFUSD district. Teachers select from three distinct curriculums emphasizing either the power of the wind, maritime history, or ecology of the bay. Every curriculum promotes inquiry based learning where students design, build, predict, test, and iterate as a team. The topics covered are rooted in STEM and vary from California’s unique geography to buoyancy and probability.

SSL is an immersive program provided at no charge to SFUSD schools, Each class is provided transportation to and from TISC, sailing on Clipper Cove and instructor-lead curriculum designed to meet 4th grade California core standards.  Upon arrival the class is split with one half sailing and the other half in our classroom. After lunch they split.

Classes are led by by our trained instructors, and include guided discussions, team activities and hands-on project time. Below are a few photos taken from typical classes starting with experiments to determine buoyancy.

Two fourth grade students see the splash and watch the bubbles, confirming this object is definitely not buoyant.


SFUSD student confirming that heavier-than-water objects are NOT buoyant.

Nothing like a real-time floating experiment to see that ships DO float. How much “cargo” will this ship be able to bring to market without sinking ?

Designing, building and racing land yachts are one of the favorite hands-on activities.

Two SFUSD fourth graders work on the design of a “land yacht” during a Set Sail Learn day at Treasure Island Sailing Center on Clipper Cove. Notice the “Oh Crab” worksheet in the background used during Ecology of the Bay classes to develop math and plotting skills.


SFUSD Students setting up the “land yacht” they built during a Set Sail Learn lesson at Treasure Island Sailing Center.

And they are OFF ! SFUSD 4th grade students used life savers, tape, glue and paper to build this land yacht. Will these kids be building boats, cars or airplanes using carbon fiber technologies and beyond inspired by this Set Sail Learn class at Treasure Island Sailing Center?.

The classroom portion includes both team based projects and guided discussion where students get a chance to lead the class and pose questions to the group..

While half the students are learning, problem solving, running experiments and team building, the other half are on Clipper Cove learning about the wind, watching it make the boats move, and connecting with Mother Nature around and under them.

And while TISC instructors use best efforts to make time in our learning center fun, sailing on Clipper Cove is hard to beat. A majority of SSL students have never been on the water, some are nervous, very few have ever sailed and ALL return to the dock with huge smiles on their faces.

Nature is all around TISC SSL students while sailing on Clipper Cove.


Touching the water and learning about Ecology of San Francisco Bay. Spring Set Sail Learn 4th grade students on Clipper Cove aboard an RS Venture framed by the Bay Bridge


Diamonds on Clipper Cove frame SFUSD fourth grade students watching the wind and (of course) putting their hands in the water.


Look closely and you will see smiling eyes above the masks of these Spring 2022 SSL students. Covid stretched and stressed our team to the limits, however they adapted and kept SSL going. Not all 2020 students were able to sail on Clipper Cove, however even those who attended SSL virtually came away with a positive feeling about Mother Nature and a better understanding about the Ecology of the Bay.


A favorite place to hang out on Clipper Cove is at the bow of a J24 sailboat.

Another favorite of SFUSD 4th graders when sailing on Clipper Cove is driving an RS Venture sailboat – which is right up there with  touching the water and discovering seaweed.


Doesn’t take much imagination to see the magic effect the waters of Clipper Cove have on 4th grade elementary students..It would be nearly impossible to tell the difference from “I touched the water” photos of



Click the photo to see pictures of smiles and hands in the water from the St. Francis Sailing Foundation grant announcement of support for SSL


“I touched the water”.

Like all students, hands in water is just the best, with extra credit for wet sleeves.


Such a simple yet high impact statement from a San Francisco 4th grader. “I touched the water”.

How fortunate we are to have been able to touch 12,131 SFUSD fourth graders since 2013.  We look forward to welcoming our Spring 2023 4th grade students.

Regards from On the Cove, and best wishes for the Holidays, Dave G

In the Wake:

Testimonials for TISC’s SSL program from teachers have been glowing:

“My students reflected how they felt more connected to their science learning. Also, they loved first experiencing sailing and understanding better the strength of wind power.”  

Reactions from fourth graders have been off-the-chart positive, with one single, simple act resonating with all.  Jayden said it best:

“It was amazing. It was the best field trip because I got to put my hand in the water and my sleeve got wet.


His feelings carried through many of the thank you cards we received.