Pampanito Submarine School, Where History Meets Science.

Join the crew of the USS Pampanito (more about the Pampanito) and learn the workings of WWII submarine technology. During their 17-hour "patrol", students explore and experiment with the basic scientific principles that enable a submarine to work.

buoyancyA submarine is a most unique sort of vessel. The Pampanito was designed for a very special purpose: to travel on long patrols independent of support from other naval vessels and carry a large crew to operate her varied and complicated equipment in often hostile environments--and to do it submerged part of the time! To accomplish this, the submarine's designers had to answer a variety of questions, such as how to make the submarine dive, how to propel it, how to navigate, and how to communicate inside the boat and out. How could they make the submarine do all these things and at the same time make it habitable and as comfortable as possible for its crew? The answers to these basic questions lay in the realm of science.

ECMScience was used to address virtually all the design challenges submarine builders faced. In this way, the USS Pampanito presents teachers and their students an unusual platform for the study of a variety of topics spanning the physical sciences: Force & Motion, Electricity & Magnetism, Energy, Light, and Sound. In fact, most of these topics can be directly correlated with content outlined in the Science Framework for California Public Schools. The various systems and their components for operating the submarine are each examples of the application of science:


Students will:
  • explore practical applications of scientific concepts using an interdisciplinary approach
  • develop specific science skills
  • develop teamwork and social skills


Students board the USS Pampanito and are presented with 5 hands-on science stations. Four of the stations have staff members to supervise activities. The "Making a Chemical Battery" station is taught by the teacher.

Students are given individual notebooks (supplied by the Pampanito crew) in which to keep notes and track answers. At the end of the program, each student will receive a "Submarine Qualification" certificate. The crew with the best over all accuracy will receive an award at the end of the program.

Timeline of program

Timeline approximate and subject to change.
  • 3:30 pm Arrive and check in
  • 3:50 pm Tour of submarine
  • 4:30 pm Tasks begin
  • 7:30 pm Dinner
  • 8:30 pm Historic board games on Crew's Mess tables - BYO Game Pieces
  • 10:00 pm Lights out
  • 7:00 am All hands - Reveille
  • 7:30 am Off load gear - Clean up
  • 8:00 am Colors (raising the American flag), Awards Ceremony, Evaluation
  • 8:30 am End

Outline of program

  • Buoyancy - Make your own submarine
  • Sonar - Passive and active listening
  • Code and Navigation - Deciphering patrol orders and plotting course
  • Optics - Make a periscope
  • Chemistry - Make a battery

Program Logistics

Group Size & Cost: (MAXIMUM 35 STUDENTS)
$2,160 flat fee - up to 27 students/7 adults. Add $80 per student for 28 - 35 students. 
1-on-1 aides are no charge.

Season: Mondays Tuesdays and Thursdays, mid September through the first week of May

Teacher’s Manual Download [PDF]

Letter to Parents   Download [PDF]

Frequently Asked Questions about the program

For more information or to make reservations, please contact Education Coordinator, Alice Watts via email, or call (415) 561-6662 x 1004


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Version 2.02, 2 June, 2017