Canoe as Alternative Education: Building a Prospector at Old Orchard Beach High School
As far as we're concerned, anytime a canoe is used as a classroom project is a cause for celebration. Our Kayakcraft Companion Video was filmed with a group of high school students in Kuujuac, Quebec, and last winter we shared the work of students in Paul French's QC Tech Shop. We've heard from both young people and educators that canoe projects make for an excellent team-building exercise and an ambitious but achievable long-term goal. This month we were pleased to see those concepts in action Old Orchard Beach High School, Maine.
Wiley Muller, a teacher in for the Pathways Alternative Education program, ordered a Prospector kit from us awhile back and recently forwarded an update: the canoe was nearing completion, and his students' progress had been featured in the Portland Press Herald. In Wiley's words, "We have seen a major cultural shift around our Alternative Education students who are at risk of dropping out." For students who hadn't responded to traditional classroom teaching methods, the canoe offered a tangible, personally meaningful entry point for a variety of subjects. "We have used the canoe project as our main focus and stemmed all of our lessons off of it," Wiley says, "including Math, Science, English, and Social Studies. It has been a really great way to establish project based learning into our curriculum."
As the Press Herald article makes clear, for some students this project has made the difference between graduating and failing to obtain enough credits. The notion of applying canoe building to multiple subjects seems to be integral, and we're impressed by the thoroughness and vision of Wiley and his co-teacher Mark Knowles. "Our plan is to put one out every year for the next 3 to 4 years," says Wiley, "so that we can develop an expedition fleet which we can use as a school resource."
That's a forward-thinking, inclusive strategy we're happy to have had a small part in. Check out the Press Herald article for more details, and we'll update this story when launch-day photos arrive.