Calla International Sailing & Mathematics Course in the Balearic Islands!

We caught up with Barbara Macario, who founded Calla International to bring together teachers, organisations and businesses to create amazing opportunities for students to apply their knowledge to real-world situations. Barbara is also a teacher at the International School of Geneva and guides students with their IB extended essay.

Before we go into the details of your exciting sailing and Maths event, can you tell us a bit more about Calla International?

Calla International was set up to enable the “21st century learning” that is currently the objective of many firms like Virgin Disruptors and Google Education. As I follow the latest developments in modern education closely, I have seen that wonderful ideas and products are being created, but that schools and teachers have difficulty implementing them.
During my teaching career I have noticed that teachers often create wonderful opportunities for their students to learn through valuable experiences, trips and events. However, these events are either offered exclusively to the students within their school, or are born and die with the teachers that create them. I therefore set up Calla International to keep these activities alive, and to be implemented by teachers worldwide for all interested students.
The events that we create offer students the opportunity to participate in educational events with strong links to the real world. I also believe that companies and organisations offer valuable learning experiences to our students, so we aim to collaborate and embrace opportunities with them. Our aim is to promote life-long learning, to use the world as our classroom and to have fun in the process.

A joint sailing and Mathematics course for IB students sounds like a fantastic idea! How did the concept come about?

When I am learning, experiencing new things and having fun in my own life, I often think about how incredible the experience would be for students and how it could bring their studies to life.
Not long ago, I joined a sailing trip with Intersailclub, sailing from Sardinia to Menorca on Miaplacidus, with Luca, the captain of the yacht. It was the most amazing trip with beautiful sunsets, stars, clear blue waters and schools of dolphins joining us. Maths is one of my passions, and as we sailed, I wondered about the theorem behind sailing, and Luca gave clear and methodical explanations. I soon realised that a combined sailing and Maths event was a great opportunity for teachers to finally answer the most common question asked by students, “Why do I need to know this?”.
In addition to this ‘Eureka moment’ on board the yacht, around the same time, I was preparing my class for their Maths entrance tests, which they were completely stressed out about. To help their understanding of the concepts they were grappling with, I started teaching the Maths behind sailing alongside an intensive preparatory course for the IB Mathematics SL (Standard Level) exam, which proved to be really popular.

Can you briefly run us through the itinerary?

We will board in Palma and sail our way up to the west of Mallorca. In the first few days, we will pass by Port d’Andratx, the marine reserve of Sa Dragonera Island and Cala en Basset. On day four, we stop at Cala de sa Costa Brava, one of the most picturesque hidden bays of Mallorca, and then spend the night in Port Soller. We will also visit Cala de Sa Calobra, a spectacular canyon. Of course, the exact itinerary is subject to change, depending on the captain’s assessment of the wind conditions.
Students will devote approximately six hours per day to studying Mathematics. They will have well-deserved breaks, during which they can enjoy discovering the sites we visit. Throughout the day, students will practice what they have learnt in class with exercises and activities. In the early evenings we will have two 45 minutes classes. Afterwards we will have time to enjoy the villages and the bays.

Who are the ideal students to benefit from the course?

The course is specifically designed for students that are about to embark on the IB Diploma Programme. Nonetheless, the Maths syllabi across all courses at this stage are very similar, which makes this trip accessible to non-IB students. The lessons will be taught in English, so fluency in the language is a requirement.

Who are the teachers and other professionals responsible for the students on the trip?

Luca Lianza, Dr. Fabrizio Giordano and I will be leading this trip. A chef will also be present to cater the meals. Our aim is to make sure students go back to school feeling empowered!
Luca is our captain and he is eager to teach students the skills and Maths that are required in sailing. Doctor Fabrizio is an engineer at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and he will be helping students to grasp what they have learnt during classes through practical workshops and activities. I have three Master of Science degrees and experience in teaching Mathematics, Economics and Business Management at High School level. I will be giving the classes and helping students to complete the exercises and activities. Whenever necessary, Fabrizio and I will be giving one-on-one lessons to students who need more support.
There is currently a large focus in education on how children have very personal learning styles, and learn in different ways. Do you cater for one style of learning in particular, or is there a mix?
That is why this trip is so amazing. Students will not even notice that they are doing so much Maths! In addition to classes and practicing exercises, we will have fun activities that will stimulate learning in various ways. We will use PowerPoints on Nearpod (an interactive presentation application), a booklet of exercises, activities and, since students like to solve puzzles, we also decided to fit in a treasure hunt that will require them to apply the Maths they have learnt. Vision, Auditory and Kinesthetic (VAK) learning styles are all imbedded in this program.

Can you tell us more about what makes sailing particularly useful as a way to demonstrate mathematical theories and problem solving?

Explaining sailing helps students to recall the concepts they have learnt at school, and then facilitates the learning of more complex theories.
For example, sailing can enhance their understanding of functions, by showing the relationship between the weight of the anchor, the depth of the ocean and the weight of the boat. Anchoring in a bay requires knowledge of the diameter and circumference of the area where the boat is to be contained.
There is also the possibility to do cross-curricular work, linking Mathematics and Physics, for example, when analysing the size of the sail, the wind speed and how this translates into the speed of the boat. Or by demonstrating the concepts of motion and friction. There is a sea of possibilities!

What are the main areas of the IB mathematics syllabus that you focus on? Can non-IB students attend?

We cover the topics that students often find challenging. We focus on the beginning of the syllabus to gives them an advantageous start to the school year and the opportunity to score well on the entrance tests that schools often set.
Firstly, we will introduce the IB Programme and the Maths syllabus with a short session to refresh their background knowledge. We will then start with factorisation and simplification. We will look into quadratic equations and functions. We will also practice drawing these functions using a graphic calculator. Finally we will introduce the laws of exponents and logarithms.
Non-IB students cover the same topics in school and it will thus be just as valuable for them as for IB students to join us.

Do the students need to have prior knowledge and expertise in sailing to join the course? How much sailing is taught alongside the mathematics?

Students do not need any prior knowledge in sailing, although a level of curiosity for the sport and a willingness to learn new skills is appreciated. Luca and Fabrizio are both lovers of the sport. They are open to any questions and whenever possible students will be encouraged to help navigate.
It sounds like the trip is also a crash-course in culture, nature and history as well – what kind of sites do you visit and how are the students encouraged to learn more about their surroundings?
We organise various excursions during lunch and after class. We offer students a variety of options, have them research these locations online, decide amongst themselves where to go and then be our guide. In this way students are encouraged to be more curious and learn about the history of the sites.
Their choices range from visiting the Cathedral of Palma to taking Mallorca’s first electric tramline tram (constructed in 1913) at the port of Sóller. We will travel by boat to Sa Calobra, a large canyon very close to the sea. There is also the opportunity to visit the ancient Roman town and theatre, Pollentia.

What was special about the Balearic Islands that made it the best place for the course?

Besides the splendour of the locations that we will visit, these islands offer us an opportunity to reach deserted beaches where we can do our activities without an overload of tourists. It also allows us to visit various places without having to travel vast distances. And crucially, they have delicious Paella!
To find out more and sign up for the course, or to see our full range of educational experiences, please go to

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