A crowd of proud parents, family members, and friends gathered earlier this week at the front deck of the Van Lennep Auditorium on the campus of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM) to launch the latest completed project for the Rising Tide after-school program, a 12-foot St. Michaels scow nicknamed ‘Pickle.
The nineteen local 6-9th graders have been meeting three times a week since January putting in a combined total of 630 hours on tasks typically meant for trained adults. The teens collected the material, created the frame, added the planks, assembled, sanded, painted, and prepared the boat for the water.
Congratulations and fun awards were handed out to the students and volunteers by Workshop Education Manager Kendall Wallace, who, together with Youth Program Coordinator Sophie Stuart, oversees the Rising Tide projects. A ceremonial (and mostly unwilling) drinking of pickle juice preceded the boat’s launching (minus the sails).
It was a landmark day for Rising Tide, constructing from a design developed and built in St Michaels in the 1930s and 40s. The scow was associated with the Miles River Yacht Club and was initially created for budding sailors learning to sail.
The project was also a first for the CBMM Shipyard Apprentice program, which partnered with Rising Tide by selecting Megan Mitchell, an apprentice, to lead the students in building the boat. Mitchell, finishing up her four-year State of Maryland certified apprenticeship, sees this appointment as the final step in connecting everything she’s learned. “Part of this is building a portfolio of capstone projects that I can present to a possible employer showing my capability in building a small boat from start to finish and managing a team of individuals of various skill levels.”
“The skills Meghan is bringing to this program,” says Jill Ferris, CBMM’s Senior Director of Engagement, Learning, and Interpretation, “are all aspects that shipwrights can integrate into their work profession. So giving her a chance to bring it all together has been a great opportunity. And combining both programs makes it a laboratory for learning in so many different regards.”
But the ‘laboratory’ extends beyond the maritime. Previous Rising Tide projects for CBMM have included a hydroponic garden and much-needed picnic tables. Last fall, Rising Tide built a couple of stand-up paddleboards, one of which was auctioned off to help support the program. However, with the expanded number of students interested in the program in the last couple of years, building a boat became a possibility.
The idea for constructing the scow began several years ago at CBMM’s annual fundraiser when the museum auctioned off the design plans and the opportunity to have a scow built. The winner symbolically returned that opportunity to the museum with the condition that it be made sometime in the future. Due to its simple design, the boat was seen as a good teaching tool, and this has been the first opportunity, after COVID, that CBMM has been able to make good on that promise. The idea is to, once again, auction the St, Michaels scow, but this time the boat rather than the design.
Both the teens involved in this endeavor and their adult supervisors are enthusiastic about the outcome that goes beyond the boat. Wallace looks back on their discussions about the contrast between the historic and modern building methods, the teamwork they experienced, and the workshop safety abilities they acquired.
Stuart pointed out that they may not even realize some skills they learned. “Like a lot of the kids in this age group, math is the last thing they want to be doing,” she said. “But when it’s shown in a practical application and why it’s important, they don’t mind, and they retain those skills.”
Besides math, the teens also use creative thinking and engineering applications and relate them to real-life situations where mistakes are permissible and knowledge is acquired through hands-on experience. If you ask the teens, they may not always appreciate the extent of this knowledge, but they all agree on the value received.
Lila McDermott, who wants to be a graphic designer, is grateful for the experience. “Learning how to read, design, and plan things is a good skill to have,” she said.
Jack Perry, a rising 10th grader, who has been with the program for a few years, says, “[The program] has given me a knowledge and understanding of carpentry and woodworking. It’s also a good way to sink some time after school into a worthwhile community project.” His ‘takeaways’–Teamwork, social skills, and cooperation.
Ilijah Jenkins also has been involved with the program long-term, but this is his first time building a boat. “One thing I learned,” he said, “was to have good communication and trust because you got to trust your partner when we’re using dangerous tools. And you also have to use communication to know that you’re using it correctly.”
Ella Eckholm is new to the program and signed up because her mom and Stuart are friends. “I went, and I just fell in love with it. I liked doing it; it was really fun.”
What is next for the Rising Tide, which starts again in September, is still being considered. “Our projects are very student-driven,” said Wallace, “because they engage with it. I don’t have to convince them it will be a good project if they come into it wanting and willing.”
At this point, the plan is to continue to expand on the skills they learned this semester. Said Wallace, “We have a pretty good group of students who are going to stick by us for a few years. So maybe we can do something similar that can use some of the steps we already know and then learn some new skills together.”
Ferris sees the scope of Rising Tide as one in rhythm with CBMM’s philosophy, “To have a sixth grader who envisions a career in engineering, and who is getting a chance to actually put some of the principles into practice and try on different skills is our goal. My hope, for this project and for every project we do, is that the people we’re connecting with get what they need out of it. That’s the ultimate success.”
Rising Tide is free, funded through CBMM, and made possible by donations and volunteer support. Rising Tide meets after school from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday at CBMM. Transportation is offered from the Easton YMCA and St. Michaels Middle/High School.