Sea History 175 - Summer 2021

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Lowell’s Boat Shop is the oldest continuously operating boat shop in the country. Its students get to launch and row their finished boats right outside the shop in Amesbury, Massachusetts. 8

courtesy twsba

“Do you guys ever get together and talk?” This simple question was posed to Joe Youcha and Adam Green at the 2008 WoodenBoat Show at Mystic Seaport by Matt Murphy, editor of WoodenBoat magazine. Youcha was running the Alexandria Seaport Foundation in Virginia, and Green directs Rocking the Boat in the Bronx. The two men looked at each other and said, “No, but we should.” This conversation inspired the founding of Teaching With Small Boats Alliance (TWSBA), formed to support and connect the hundreds of youth boatbuilding programs around the country. Their goal is not to create a generation of professional boatbuilders per se, but their philosophy is that the range of skills and benefits that kids get out of these programs goes far beyond learning how to saw a piece of wood or fasten it together. In addition to woodworking, students learn math, science, design, art—not to mention building self-confidence, and leadership and maritime skills. Since that 2008 conversation, there have been six TWSBA national conferences and seven regional meetings, with more than 150 organizations participating. Those organizations collectively serve about 100,000 youths and 100,000 adults each year. TWSBA is a “collaboration of people, programs, organizations and businesses that believe that small boats have limitless potential as teaching tools and vehicles for individual and social development.” The organization is comTeaching With Small Boats Alliance chair Joe Youcha with students. mitted to sharing knowledge, ideas, and best practices about leadership and program development, hands-on building projects, boat use, and integration of maritime-based lessons into school curricula. Their regional and national conferences strengthen the effectiveness of individual programs and the community of educators dedicated to the success of this mission. Tom Brandl, executive director of the Tidewater Wooden Boat Workshop (TWBW) in Norfolk, Virginia, explains how programs like these introduce young people in coastal regions and near inland waters to their own history in a way that schools do not. Brandl, a former US Marine Corps officer, left his job as director of operations for a defense consulting firm in 2014 to found TWBW. He has witnessed the tremendous positive impact the boatbuilding program has had on the lives of underprivileged youth in the historic Hampton Roads area. According to Brandl, building wooden boats—and then using them to row and sail—makes learning their regional history relevant and fun. These small, but vital, programs are going on all over the country. From boatbuilding to high school ROV competitions, from National History Day to sail training programs, leaders in the maritime heritage community are finding all sorts of ways to reach young people and instill in them a passion for our maritime heritage. Years ago, then-NMHS chairman emeritus Walter Brown and I ran into folk singer and activist Pete Seeger in New York City. Seeger said to us that it is organizations like ours that are doing the truly important work in this counBoatbuilding is a group effort at All Hands try. I have never forgotten that endorseBoatworks in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. ment, and it has sustained me through some difficult times. I say this now to Joe Youcha and the members of the Teaching With Small Boats Alliance: It is organizations like yours that are doing truly important work, passing down important skills, but also shaping better futures, for your students and our country. —Burchenal Green, president

courtesy lowells boat shop

courtesy all hands boatworks

Teaching With Small Boats Alliance


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