Sunday, 14 May 2017

TWSBA Conference shows new directions possible!

The Teaching With Small Boats Alliance is an ad-hoc group of organizations who are using the building of small boats to reach kids who may not learn so easily from a piece of paper. Our own Boats 4 Folks programme falls into this general sphere of influence.

TWSBA was founded by Joe Youcha who also founded the Alexandria Seaport Foundation & designed the skiff we build in order to work with street gangs in DC. That was in the late 80's and he is still going very strong! We have been aware of all this activity through reading WoodenBoat Magazine for many years and felt it was time to get more deeply into the theory and practice behind it.

I invited Matt to head to this year's conference which was held at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St Michael's MD, to see what we could learn that would move the needle for K&C.

The campus is amazing, we camped out in the Lighthouse on the CBMM grounds which was fun too. Best of all of course were the people we met - let's face it - 130 folks all committed to changing kids lives, would you expect to find duds? no.

CBMM boatshop from gallery
CBMM woodworking platform

Lighthouse behind Log Canoe restoration
view from lunch room deck!

CBMM boatshop other end!
 Each day was divided into sessions and locations in a grid, as we drove down we divided up the most appropriate sessions we felt would be best value for K&C and our own development. If you are interested in this subject please see the TWSBA website!

On the way down I was fired up with how to bring more S.T.E.M. (Science, Tecnology, Engineering and Math) teaching into our own Boats 4 Folks (B4F) programmes. (anyone who finds it ironic that someone with ADHD is leading this effort - shut up). By mid day Thursday I realized this would be a bonus but is not really a core of the B4F we currently run. In "4 kids build 12' boat in 2 Days" there is very little stem teaching - we are delivering a huge shot of self-esteem to kids who know failure really well. And this is something we will continue to do.

What did show up as a result of our participation in TWSBA was seeing a new path for a new programme. For some years we have been held back from creating school based programmes by the logistics of getting students into the boat shop, by the funding for a full time boatbuilder/E.D. which is necessary for integrated shop visits and the logistics of getting kids to the shop week after week. Here's what showed up...

K&C creates or finds a part-time skilled professional who can lead and train others in teaching stem through boatbuilding.

K&C creates the kits for delivery to the schools along with said leader who returns to the school weekly over a 10 - 12 week schedule for the delivery of the course. Eventually we would only need to deliver the kits and teaching material.

This solution solves a whole lot of problems including keeping the boatshop un-jammed to fulfill it's basic purpose of restoration training and fun messing about in boats. Plus unlimited growth potential

While we had some great takeaways from TWSBA I didn't want to arrive empty handed and i suspected we might have something to teach about small scale fundrasing as delivered by our raffle programme. The key to this is the time we spend turning each sow's ear into a Silk Purse. We had to take a finished skiff with us for our strategy to be understood and this worked -- most of the attendees had not gone down this route because what they are building is not saleable.

K&C is also close to delivering a sea flea based kids programme so we took our prototype Mini-Hopper. Nobody there knew what a sea flea was! Well they do now! We gave rides to a few and they were instantly in love and could see the magnetism of our planned programme on kids.

museum of recreational boats display Star and Comet
very tidy outboard display

Joe Youcha in boatshop door
Matt reviewing last session at a break
Skipjack ride was awsome

what me smile!?
Yup! Want one of these!

 So it was an amazing outing, next TWSBA Conference is in 2 years, location tba and hopefully K&C will be there with a team! Special thanks to Jenn Kuhn the ED of CBMM for doing a fantastic job of hosting this year's Conference. If you have never visited before - get it on your list - lovely weather in April too!

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