This past weekend I had a pretty interesting opportunity present itself to me. The Teaching With Small Boats Alliance was coming together in Halifax for their first ever biennial conference, to be held at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. It was an interesting day with presentations from Ocean School, the Nova Scotia Sea School, there was even a presentation on dory building classes held at the Dory Shop.
It was a very interesting day for me. I’m very much a believer of experiential learning. You can learn math, for instance, in so many ways other than sitting at a desk having a teacher talk at you about it. Cooking, baking, building, planting, crafting .. there are lots of things that use math and there is an endless list of examples of projects that kids have come away from having learned not only those dull math skills but also picked up some self-esteem, social & environmental awareness and having opened up a few windows in their thoughts of the future and their place in it.
This conference was all about just that. Specifically, as the name suggests, boat building as a way to reach kids.
This is so up my alley for so many reasons. I live in Nova Scotia. We are surrounded by the sea – can’t get more than 50km away from it, as a matter of fact, no matter how hard one might try (but then why would anyone want to escape the sea?). Despite this, the list of kids who haven’t been in the ocean is long – the list of those who haven’t been in a boat on the ocean is much, much longer. And yet boats are such a large and important piece of the Nova Scotia puzzle. Fishing & farming. Where would we be without them. Even in our rum-running days, we were relying on the boats as much as the booze. We are nautical. So why is it our kids aren’t?
Enter the Bevin’s Skiff and Eammon Doorly. Eammon is the boatbuilder at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and it appears he feels just the way I do – but he’s got more get up & go. The Bevin’s Skiff is a very small and simple wooden boat designed specifically to be taught to kids over a 3-day period. Yes, that’s right: 3 days from a pile of wood to a completed skiff. In a couple of hours we worked together and completed day 1 of the 3-day project. There were two teams of us doing this, and my team was lucky enough to not only have Lisa Zygowski (boat builder at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic), Milford Buchanan (Master Dory Builder at the Shelburne Dory Shop – home of the second-best dories in Nova Scotia), Andrew Rhodenizer (past boatbuilder here at the Lunenburg Dory Shop (home of the very best dories in Nova Scotia) and currently working at Lutwick’s boat yard), and most importantly the young gent appearing in all of these photos who did the bulk of the work with a little guidance from those mentioned above and some others.
It was an interesting day all around, and I suggest you should watch this space, because we are going to revisit the Bevin’s Skiff in 2019. There is something pretty cool being planned, and we’re going to be a part of it! I’d also suggest you take a look at this video which tells the tremendous impact building this skiff had on a small First Nation School in Pictou Landing.