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In the fall of 1998, I began building a boat with kids at an East Harlem middle school. I chose to do this not because I had done the research to discover that this was an ideal educational paradigm, but to fulfill the dream of the teacher in whose classroom I was volunteering. As my students enthusiastically showed up each week and as their investment in working together to complete the boat grew, I realized that the model worked. It still does. I didn’t know it at the time, but the program’s success was a reflection of so many of the principles and practices that would soon emerge as the leading ideas for developing young people.

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics wouldn’t become a widespread acronym until years later but, in retrospect, the utility of STEM content is a great part of why building a wooden boat resonated with my first eight students and me. It is also why those skills remain central to everything that takes place in our Hunts Point boatshop and on the Bronx River where today we serve 4,000 youth and community members through our boatbuilding, environmental science, and sailing youth development programs. The maker movement had not yet gathered steam, but Rocking the Boat fully embraced its tenets of collaboration and education from our beginning. Paul Tough’s game-changing book How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character was published seven years ago; character education is gradually gaining ground in the field, in part because of Rocking the Boat’s pioneering work. Books, white papers, and documentaries continue to advance each of these three themes, all validating and promoting what Rocking the Boat has been excelling at for more than 20 years.

Whether or not one uses the specific terms STEM, grit, and maker to describe the magic that happens at Rocking the Boat, the premises are strong and the impacts lasting. Your endorsement of our work is every bit as meaningful as the scholarly research and professional perspective. You attend events, follow our work from near and far, applaud student successes, volunteer time and energy, and spread the word. And you contribute financially, generously and with confidence that we will put it to the best possible use. I very much hope you will do so again this fall.

Thank you!

STEM
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At Rocking the Boat, STEM—and literally stems—are fundamental to restoring a river…

Rocking the Boat participants reach with both hands and step with both feet into restoring their own local river, and become citizen scientists by tackling valuable research and conservation projects such as microplastics research, wetland management, and long-legged wading bird surveys.
 
In 2019, the Youth Development Program reinvigorated its bedrock STEM approach by implementing a technical curriculum comprising 56 distinct technical skills essential to boatbuilding, environmental science, and sailing competency.

Seeing the real impact of their work inspires students to follow STEM interests.  One third of our program graduates pursue studies in science, technology, and engineering, fields where women and minorities are radically under-represented.

“If I can build a boat, I can do anything.” – Meliza, 17
STEM
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At Rocking the Boat, STEM—and literally stems—are fundamental to restoring a river…

Rocking the Boat participants reach with both hands and step with both feet into restoring their own local river, and become citizen scientists by tackling valuable research and conservation projects such as microplastics research, wetland management, and long-legged wading bird surveys.
 
In 2019, the Youth Development Program reinvigorated its bedrock STEM approach by implementing a technical curriculum comprising 56 distinct technical skills essential to boatbuilding, environmental science, and sailing competency.

Seeing the real impact of their work inspires students to follow STEM interests.  One third of our program graduates pursue studies in science, technology, and engineering, fields where women and minorities are radically under-represented.

“If I can build a boat, I can do anything.” – Meliza, 17
Maker
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Self…made.

Project-based learning is a fundamental component of the maker movement. Many young people learn most effectively through hands-on projects and the problem-solving needed to see them through. Building boats and maintaining wetlands are definitive maker opportunities, simultaneously constructive and fun.

The Boatbuilders put Persistence, the Herreshoff 12½ sailboat they had just finished constructing, into the water in front of a cheering crowd. The class had become so personally committed to the workmanship, that immediately after the ceremony, they pulled up a floorboard to see if the hull had leaked. It had not. With equal measures of pride, purpose, and proof of their own potential, Cory, a high school senior with the project longer than his peers, remarked on behalf of his fellow apprentices, “We shouldn’t have doubted ourselves.”

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Maker
Self…made.

Project-based learning is a fundamental component of the maker movement. Many young people learn most effectively through hands-on projects and the problem-solving needed to see them through. Building boats and maintaining wetlands are definitive maker opportunities, simultaneously constructive and fun.

The Boatbuilders put Persistence, the Herreshoff 12½ sailboat they had just finished constructing, into the water in front of a cheering crowd. The class had become so personally committed to the workmanship, that immediately after the ceremony, they pulled up a floorboard to see if the hull had leaked. It had not. With equal measures of pride, purpose, and proof of their own potential, Cory, a high school senior with the project longer than his peers, remarked on behalf of his fellow apprentices, “We shouldn’t have doubted ourselves.”

Grit
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It takes two kinds of grit to build a boat...

“After cutting and putting in the boat’s sheer clamp, the wood ended up splitting. It was frustrating to have to do it all over, but we did it because we wanted it to be right. When it was finished and I painted the name on the boat, I was proud.” - Diana, 18

For Sailors, gaining the skill to teach sailing to young learners is a years-long process. For the Boatbuilders, producing an elegant, finished rowboat from raw wood might require a year or more of toil. These are huge commitments for an adolescent and they are full of obstacles, which demand not just personal resolve, but character strength, and the social acumen to accomplish great things both individually and as a group.

Known together as Social Emotional Learning, developing these skills has always been the chief benefit sought by Rocking the Boat’s unique programming. The in-house Social Work team, growing by one member in 2020, helps participants to put their social emotional skills to use to propel them beyond Rocking the Boat.

Grit
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It takes two kinds of grit to build a boat...

“After cutting and putting in the boat’s sheer clamp, the wood ended up splitting. It was frustrating to have to do it all over, but we did it because we wanted it to be right. When it was finished and I painted the name on the boat, I was proud.” - Diana, 18

For Sailors, gaining the skill to teach sailing to young learners is a years-long process. For the Boatbuilders, producing an elegant, finished rowboat from raw wood might require a year or more of toil. These are huge commitments for an adolescent and they are full of obstacles, which demand not just personal resolve, but character strength, and the social acumen to accomplish great things both individually and as a group.

Known together as Social Emotional Learning, developing these skills has always been the chief benefit sought by Rocking the Boat’s unique programming. The in-house Social Work team, growing by one member in 2020, helps participants to put their social emotional skills to use to propel them beyond Rocking the Boat.

Thank you for helping to sustain and grow Rocking the Boat’s
youth development programs



kids don’t just build boats, boats build kids

rocking the boat
812 edgewater road
bronx, ny 10474

info@rockingtheboat.org
phone: 718.466.5799
fax: 718.466.2892

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