Though the USS Clamagore submarine is bound for the ocean floor off South Carolina's coastline, students statewide will likely be exploring the vessel long after it's sunk.
That's thanks to a virtual tour of the sub created by the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum's education director, Keith Grybowski. He utilized what's usually a web tool for real estate agents to create 360-degree images of the vessel's interior.
Earlier this year, the Legislature voted to sink the deteriorating 74-year-old sub at a cost of about $2.7 million. The vessel will continue to be docked at the museum — as it has been since the 1980s — until preparations are made for the move.
Grybowski said he isn't sure how the virtual Clamagore tour will be incorporated into the museum's educational offerings yet, but he sees it as another way students who can't physically come to the museum can have an interactive experience with its ships.
"And even when the Clamagore leaves, we've still got this," he said.
Before the end of the school year, the state-owned maritime museum will engage with thousands of students, including every fifth grader in South Carolina.
Not all of those fifth graders will actually step aboard the museum's Yorktown aircraft carrier. About 12,000 of them will, but that's as many as the museum can accommodate during a school year, Grybowski said.
This is the fifth year the maritime museum has partnered with the S.C. Department of Education via the Education Improvement Act to fund free field trips and the distribution of 130,000 Patriots Point-published books.
Every South Carolina fifth grader receives two books that are written, published and distributed by the museum's educators: a history-focused storybook and interactive science book.
The books, additional web materials and classroom visits by Patriots Point educators expand the museum's reach well beyond Mount Pleasant, but bringing students to the site still offers an unmatched opportunity to engage with students, Grybowski said.
"You catch them on the dock," he said. "Once you have the 'wow' factor of seeing the Yorktown, you have their attention."
Fifth graders who visit the Yorktown tour the ship and solve problems in teams. For the science program, it's a fictitious oil spill in Charleston Harbor. In the history program, they solve math problems in a simulation of the historic 1942 Doolittle Raid, the first American airstrike on Tokyo during World War II.
For the first time this year, students who complete the Doolittle Raid problem will be able to climb into the museum's recently restored B-25 Mitchell Bomber plane — the same type of plane used in the real raid — and peer through the plane's gun turret.
The State Ports Authority provided funding for another new field trip feature this year: working models that show students how the Panama Canal's lock system works. (The Yorktown aircraft carrier traveled through the canal in the summer of 1943, the year it was commissioned.) A small radio-controlled aircraft carrier moves through three different water levels in the model.
The first field trips of the school year will start this month.
Grybowksi would like to increase the current capacity for free field trips and has his eye on a few different spots aboard the carrier that could house more classroom space, he said.
The museum is also trying to expand into educational programs for eighth and ninth-grade students. Last year, the museum piloted that idea with eighth graders at Charleston County's Military Magnet Academy.
The students participated in the museum's Flight Academy, an American Airlines-supported program in which students complete flight simulations that emphasize math and communication skills.
The students participated in three on-site visits to the museum and three classroom sessions. This year, the museum will do the same with this year's class of eighth graders at Military Magnet and will expand to three other area schools.
Grybowksi said he would also like to engage the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, which has its headquarters and a small museum aboard the Yorktown, in educational programs for older students. He envisions using the stories of medal recipients to teach students "soft skills" related to patriotism, bravery and integrity.