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Bath, ME (October 28, 2021) - For 14 years, Kurt Spiridakis has taught the Maine Maritime Museum’s Boatbuilding Program to students at Woolwich Central School (WCS), South Bristol School, West Bath School, and Georgetown School. Spiridakis said the program is an opportunity to show students that they are capable of handling daunting challenges when they take things one step at a time.
“Woodworking is a creative and satisfying process using both your mind and your hands,” he said. “It teaches students that they can follow a process, even though it takes a long time and is semi-complicated, and make a successful product. They find out, ‘I can do this!’ ”
The Maine Maritime Museum’s program was an early pioneer in utilizing boatbuilding to teach STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) when it began in 1995. During the first semester, students are taught basic woodworking techniques and technology and build three increasingly difficult projects to take home: a three-legged stool, a tool box, and a carved half model of the skiff they will be constructing together in the second semester.
“The small projects give students the knowledge and practice they need to trust their hands when it comes to building the actual boat,” Spiridakis said.
With class sizes that exceed the boat shop’s 15 student capacity, 7th and 8th graders at WCS must apply to participate. Seventh grader Piper applied because she comes from a family of boatbuilders, mechanics, and carpenters, and wanted to try the craft out for herself. She said she has enjoyed learning how to use different tools, especially the Japanese hand saw, which cuts on the pull stroke instead of the push.
Seventh grader François claimed that the class was “the funnest thing since sliced bread” and that, while he may not grow up to be a carpenter, he looks forward to having woodworking skills in his back pocket.
Other students, like 8th grader Caleb, got a taste of woodworking through the museum’s summer camp, and was excited for the opportunity to expand his skills.
The boat that the students will eventually construct is a 12-foot, flat-bottomed skiff of a traditional Maine design. Graduation from the program will take place toward the end of the school year, where students will launch and row their boat at Nequasset Lake.
WCS Principal Jason Libby called the school’s ability to participate in the program “a true partnership,” noting that a portion of their participation is paid through the town, another portion through the school, and the last portion through private donations.
“The part that I love about this program is that it’s a great equalizer,” Libby said. “There are students from all walks of life – athletes, builders, artists – and they come together to work on a shared goal. They get to see the different strengths in each other. I think that is a life-long benefit of this program.”