Row, row, row your boat, after you build it

Row, row, row your boat, after you build it

Photo by James A. McBride

kidsbuildingboats-webBefore launching one of the two boats they built themselves, the fifth grade of Our Lady of Sea School, Atlantic City, and their teacher, Colleen Griffin, pose for a photo on June 16.

No doubt, students throughout the region have rushed headlong into their summer vacations, excited at the prospect of no homework and zero tests. And while many of them may pause a moment from playing video games, catching up on sleep, or hitting the pool to reflect on a productive school year, you can bet that the fifth graders from Our Lady Star of the Sea in Atlantic City truly have something they can look back on with pride.

Our Lady Star of the Sea’s fifth graders now know how to build a boat. In fact, they’ve built two of them as part of the Building Kids Program, an initiative sponsored by the Bayshore Center at Bivalve.
Designed for boys and girls ages 10 to 15, the program teaches students to build traditional wooden sailing and rowing boats. Our Lady Star of the Sea is the first local Catholic school in the area to participate.
“The students have built two beautiful boats,” says Sister Shamus Zehrer, RSM, principal at Our Lady Star of the Sea. “They have gotten a very, very good foundation with math.”
Construction of the boats began in November. One was built at the Atlantic City Convention Center in conjunction with this year’s NJEA teacher’s conference. The other was put together the week after. Prior to the boats’ official launch on the bay last week, members of the Atlantic City Beach Patrol inspected the vessels to make sure they were seaworthy.
“The Beach Patrol were surprised that the boats were done by 10 and 11 year olds,” says Colleen Griffin, the fifth grade teacher from Our Lady Star of the Sea, who helped coordinate the project for the school. “In fact, the Coast Guard approved the boats for 455 pounds.”
As they constructed two boats, all of the school’s fifth graders had an opportunity to be involved with the entire building process.
“The kids did this from scratch and did everything but seal the boats,” explains Griffin. And while the students learned a lot about geometry, mathematical computations and tides in order to properly build the boats, there was also an opportunity to teach some other important lessons.
“The kids learned a lot about teamwork and cooperation. This is something they really needed be on top of,” added Griffin. “We also talked about the Apostles and their boating.”
“They’re involved and engaged in an activity that’s beyond their horizon,” says Bill Sheridan, a retired educator who coordinates the Building Kids Program. “Why a boat’s important is that it’s not a toy. This is something that has a real-world function. It’s a very important life lesson. Anybody in this world, if they’re going to be successful, they’re going to have to take risks. This program gives students the opportunity to totally go beyond their imagination to build something like a boat and do it right and do it effectively. That’s the real value.”
But don’t just take the grow-ups’ words for it. Several of the fifth graders took the opportunity to share their thoughts on this experience.
“We had a lot of fun building the boats and meeting new people,” says Dakota Bivens. “I liked learning about power tools and safety. It will be something I will always remember.”
“Building the boats was a big surprise for us,” added Andres Angulo. “They turned out really nice. It was a great opportunity.”
“We learned so much math that we really will use in real life,” explained Catherine Scott.
The Building Kids Program would like to have more Catholic schools involved next year.
For more information on the Building Kids Program, contact the Bayshore Center at Bivalve at 856.785.2060 x100 or by email at

Categories: Catholic School News

About Author