spotlight stories

spotlight on learning with a purpose

The New York Times recently published an essay by university professor, best-selling author, and public speaker on both autism and animal behavior Temple Grandin, Society Is Failing Visual Thinkers, and That Hurts Us All. The excerpt below resonated with us here at Rocking the Boat and we wanted to share it with you, thinking that the members of our community would be gratified to know that we are performing such an important educational role.

“…To improve both elementary and high school…the first step would be to put more of an emphasis on hands-on classes such as art, music, sewing, woodworking, cooking, theater, auto mechanics and welding. Exposure is key. Too many students are growing up who have never used a tool. They are completely removed from the world of the practical." 

–Temple Grandin

Rocking the Boat is designed for young people who learn best by doing.  And when the doing involves contributing to some greater purpose, the impact of that learning becomes even greater.  For 25 years Rocking the Boat kids have been using their hands to build real wooden boats and using them to revitalize their local river.  Every activity is experiential and if the question “why are we doing this?” is ever asked, our educators can give immediately practical answers that tie directly back to the primary purpose of the project.  Whether it’s hammering the 1,000 copper rivets that fasten a boat’s planks watertight, or clamping the calipers that measure the growth of Bronx River oysters, everything we do has a purpose. We could not agree more with Temple Grandin about the value of hands-on experience and the power of using tools–real ones that you can hold–as an essential ingredient for learning and growth.


rocking the boat
812 edgewater road
bronx, ny 10474
phone: 718.466.5799

Rocking the Boat is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Download Form 990.