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Science Cruise Nets Benefits for Students

Associated Press

Fifth-graders in the Mount Diablo School District aren’t playing hookey when they head out to the Delta. It’s for school, really.

The district offers a class that features a 3 1/2-hour, 6-mile cruise in search of clues to the nature of biology and other sciences.

“They will be introduced to a variety of subjects, from the study of plankton and collecting weather data to basic navigation,” said Richard Thall, the teacher in charge of the program this year.

“We’ve caught big sturgeon, striped bass, salmon and other game fish, all of which were safely returned to the bay,” said skipper Mike Liston. “It’s always a grab bag and you just never know what’s going to come up.”

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Program Began 21 Years Ago

Kids have been boarding the 56-foot, 40-ton Crago--named after a shrip native to the nearby Suisun Bay--since the program began in 1967 by now-retired science teacher Wilson Landrum. He used his weekend fishing boat as an extension of the classroom laboratory.

By the end of this school year, 4,500 students will have participated in the floating classroom program in the district about 30 miles east of San Francisco.

District officials bought the Crago, a World War II landing barge, in 1970 from the nearby Suisun Reserve Fleet for $400 from a military surplus company.

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When they suffered financial problems a few years ago, the Contra Costa Water District stepped in. It offered to pay half of the $90,000-a-year costs for the Delta program if all schools within the water district boundaries had access to the Crago.

That allows students from Pittsburg, Antioch, Brentwood, Byron, and Martinez to participate.

“I’ve run into studnets years after they graduated from high school and asked what they learned in biology or science classes,” said Thall. “They usually tell me they can’t remember, but they always recall their afternoon aboard the Crago.”

Water district spokeswoman Deborah Maxon said district officials think the class outing helps educate children about the importance of water, “how to protect it and use it wisely.”

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