Semester-long school project teaches many lessons

Searsport high schoolers set to launch their dinghies

Posted:  Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 8:15pm
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SEARSPORT — Eight Searsport District High School students next week will launch a pair of shellback dinghies they recently finished building, representing successful completion of a semester-long science and math course.

The launch will take place Wednesday, May 22, at noon at the Searsport town dock. The public is invited.

Shellback dinghies were designed by Maine boat builder Joel White. Since January, students have been working at Penbscot Marine Museum alongside master boat builder Greg Rössel.

The collaborative project was designed to teach physical science and math by providing students with first-hand exposure to boat-related concepts such as center of effort, buoyancy, vectors and drag, according to a press release from Kathy Goldner of PMM.

This is the third year for the collaboration, but for each group of incoming class of students it is a new experience. This year's students included Wynn Adams, Kevin Kenison, Matthew Kilpatrick, Alexandria Northup, Alexis Parker, Anthony Powers, Kelsie Redmond and Bartly Santos. In the release, Kilpatrick said his favorite part of the boat building was also one of the most challenging: transforming a square length of wood into a round mast.

Teachers Michelle Colbry and Lawrene Blair accompanied the students during much of their shop time, making sure that they met curriculum standards through a combination of hands-on and traditional learning activities. Additional boatbuilding assistance was provided by community volunteers Bruce Brown, Rick Fitzsimmons, Jeanne Gail, Rob Giffin, Fred Kirchais, Dave Lawrence and Jerry Marancik. The museum provided work space, tools and administrative support.

Museum Director Liz Lodge said the project is an "opportunity to not only work with a local school on a project based learning initiative, it is also a chance to help pass along traditional boatbuilding skills to a new generation."

Hamilton Marine, Maine Coast Lumber and WoodenBoat magazine helped the project by donating or discounting materials used to construct the dinghies. In addition, Greg Gambel of Gambel and Hunter Sailmakers made the sails for the shellbacks and taught the students about sail making during the course.

Rössel said he is "thankful for the interest and support shown by local businesses for the project."

For information about the educational program, contact Searsport District High School Principal Brian Campbell at 548-2313. For information about Penobscot Marine Museum call 548-2529.