Successful Semester at Northeast Metro 916
You hear a lot about our Apprenticeship Program in Waterlines and through social media. So what about the other half of Urban Boatbuilders – the Partnership Program? We want to feature one of our ongoing projects this month – Northeast Metro 916. Urban Boatbuilders has built eight boats with students more than 100 students since the beginning of our partnership many years ago. This past semester, one of our instructors, Phil, led a project at Capitol View School. Many of the students Phil works with have some behavioral or learning disorders.
Just last week, the students finished work on a Wee Lassie – a solo canoe. Phil shared with us a few anecdotes from the semester. The last step to finishing the boat is to trim the excess fabric from the skin. Phil assigned this task to Brandon, a student who showed some serious hesitation when the project started. He wasn’t confident working with his hands. But on Thursday when they finished the boat, Phil said Brandon seemed almost “hungry” for the task, and that upon completing he saw in him a “tangible moment of ownership”.
This week the students have a celebration of their accomplishments with Phil and their other instructors. When Phil offhandedly said that they would be playing a game of boat trivia at the celebration, one student in particular perked up. This student, Austin, prides himself on his knowledge of the intricacies of boatbuilding, and since the announcement of the trivia contest has been making flashcards and quizzing himself on the information, determined to win.
Over the semester, the students were engaged with the project in a variety of ways. One smaller group of students even built cup holders in the boat – so now you can have your morning coffee in the middle of a lake! The students are looking forward to starting their second boat of the year later this week – a Greenland kayak – and they will launch both boats on a local lake in May.
Last Wednesday, January 27, five youth graduated from the Apprenticeship Program. After a shortened, but energetic work session, the Apprentices all cleaned up the shop and set up for the ceremony. With the chairs and benches arranged in a half-moon, the five soon-to-be graduates took the center stage in front of their peers, instructors, family, and friends.
First, five Apprentices each gave a speech about their experience with one of the graduating Apprentices, recognizing their growth and accomplishments from the perspective of a peer. After that, the Apprentices were recognized by their instructors, each sharing reflection on and stories of the youth from throughout their six months in the program. One instructor recalled Apprentice Rylan’s first Northern caught in the Boundary Waters last summer – as well as the subsequent bass he himself caught, the size of which they seemed to recall quite differently!
Other instructors reflected on the first time they met the youth, their hesitance turned to eagerness, their courage leading them to new personal growth by the end of their journey at Urban Boatbuilders. The predominant message of the instructors was this: Don’t be a stranger! We’re here to help in the future, too. The youth each received a new, Urban Boatbuilders t-shirt and a certificate of completion of the program, and shook their instructors’ hands. Family of the graduating Apprentices shared their thanks to the instructors and the program, and how impressed they were with the changes they’ve seen in the youth since they started.
The floor was opened up to family and friends in the audience. The father of an apprentice offered the following, "I just want to say thank you to Urban Boatbuilders for giving my son the opportunity to come here. Before he came here he was having social anxiety issues with everybody...Everybody here has helped him bring out the inner Steven. And I just want to thank everybody. He is on his way to the rest of his life."
Good luck, graduated Apprentices. And again, don’t be strangers!
Volunteer Recognition Event
After the Apprentice Graduation on Wednesday night, Urban Boatbuilders volunteers gathered for the annual Volunteer Celebration recognizing their contributions to our organization and youth. They enjoyed a fun, social night — though even at the height of the socializing, volunteers could still be heard talking about their work with Urban Boatbuilders and planning for the future. We had a fajita bar, as well as beer generously donated by Lake Monster Brewing (have you been to their taproom yet? They have one of our skiffs on display!) Volunteers played ping pong and Hammerschlagen (a game involving nails, a hammer, and a big wooden stump), and the games lasted late into the night.
Bob Anderson, a longtime volunteer and supporter of Urban Boatbuilders, was honored as the 2015 Volunteer of the Year. This year, Volunteer of the Year was opened up to voting – so it was all the other volunteers who recognized Bob as a major and noteworthy contributor to the organization and to the youth. Bob's list of contributions are too numerous to include all of them. Some of the highlights include serving as board president from 2010 - 2015, working directly with youth - especially during on-the-water training, prototyping new boat designs, and planning the details of our Boundary Waters trips. We couldn’t be more thankful for Bob! He was given a hammer with a plaque with his name on it.
Throughout 2015, 175 people volunteered their time and effort at Urban Boatbuilders. All of their hours totaled up to 4,543. That is the equivalent of more than two full-time staff members! We are constantly awed and honored by the hard work and commitment our volunteers show, and we sincerely thank them for their time and effort. We couldn’t do it without them!
If you’re interested in volunteering with Urban Boatbuilders, contact Ben at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have many volunteer roles, and everyone is welcome.
New Boat Design at Boys Totem Town
Ruth, a resident of Duluth, has always loved rowing. When she broke her ankle last year, her son became concerned about her carrying her boat to the water to row it, and told her he thought she should take it easy. Ruth, to the contrary, contacted Urban Boatbuilders to see if they could build her a boat that would be both stable and light-weight. One of our instructors, Phil, took this idea to the students he works with at Boys Totem Town, and together they planned and prototyped a new boat.
The boat is a skin-on-frame Nordic pram. Traditionally when building a pram, we have used lapstrake construction – with strips of wood layered over each other and riveted together. The bow and stern of the boat are large cuts of walnut. The skin-on-frame design has an altered hull form, and 300 lashings of artificial sinew. Planning the construction of the boat was uncharted territory for both Urban Boatbuilders and the crew at Boys Totem Town.
Throughout those 300 lashings, Phil didn’t hear a single complaint from the crew. In fact, one of the crew members, Anthony, had such high standards for their work that if he found lashes that weren’t up to par, he would cut them and redo them. That impressive work ethic has carried them through the stages of prototyping, and now another skin-on-frame pram is being built at the Urban Boatbuilders workshop. Boys Totem Town has often been a pathway to the Apprenticeship program in the past – and a few students will begin the program next week.
We don’t normally talk a lot about the construction of the boats but in this case it is relevant to showing how much the students we work with are capable of. For us, the boatbuilding is the means to the end of positive youth development, but, to quote Phil, “it’s a fun means”.
Boat Joke of the Month
There was a young man from Crewe
Who decided to build a canoe
But when he got to the river
He found with a shiver
That he hadn't used waterproof glue!