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STEM Students Put Lessons to Practical Use Building 10-foot Skiff

Read all about our Fall 2021 Boatbuilding class here!

Five students spent months engineering and crafting a 10-foot skiff and developing team working and STEM-focused skills while learning the history of the maritime industry on Cape Cod at the hands of experienced woodworkers and boat builders.

Three of the students are Sandwich STEM students and one, though also a Sandwich resident, attends a charter school in East Harwich.

The workshop at the Cape Cod Maritime Museum in Hyannis offers the program annually to six students as a way to celebrate the maritime heritage and teach traditional boat building, said executive director Elizabeth York. Only five signed up this year.

Lydia Styche, Samantha Thompson and Zach Rittel, seventh-grade STEM students who spent several months learning how to woodwork and boat build, look back toward shore after launching their 10-foot skiff.

“The volunteers love sharing their knowledge and instilling that love and respect for boat building and woodworking,” Ms. York said. “It’s a great opportunity for them to give kids some practical math and hands-on skills with the tools.”

Working one-on-one with the students, aged 11 to 13 years old, the volunteers learn where each student has different skills and interests, and then foster those interests, she continued.

“When you start getting into the boat-building process, the math and the engineering process just sort of come to you,” said Samantha Thompson, 12, who partook in the workshop. “I’m not a very big math person, I don’t like math, but when you get this huge, amazing end result, it doesn’t feel like math—it feels like you accomplished something.”

The five STEM students work alongside seasoned volunteers at the Cape Cod Maritime Museum in Hyannis, where they were taught boat building and wood working skills and the history of the maritime industry on Cape Cod.

The workshop, which is advertised through the Barnstable Recreation Department, was suspended the last two years due to the pandemic. But when Tammy Thompson heard it would be available this year, she knew it was the perfect opportunity for Samantha.

“I think she’s a budding engineer and I knew that it would be everything in her wheelhouse,” Ms. Thompson said. “Every week, you could see the progress they were making, the positive reinforcement, the boost in self-esteem. They were teaching them life lessons, too. How to be a good person, a good friend, how to be kind.”

When the skiff was completed, it was launched off Veteran’s Beach and the children rowed it through the harbor. But the skiff itself was bought by the Thompson family and gifted to Sam for Christmas.

“It was so wonderful to all work together as a team to provide this for Sam knowing she was such a wonderful participant,” Ms. York said. “To facilitate her as a new steward in traditional boat building was really fantastic.”

In the shop, the students proudly reveal the model of the 10-foot Bevin’s skiff they hand crafted over several months.

Growing up on the water and surrounded by maritime influences, Sam wanted to purchase the boat for her grandfather, who lives on the water in Falmouth, but did not have enough money saved by Christmas, Ms. Thompson said. As a surprise, her parents purchased the boat for her, and Sam named it the Sinko Amigos for the five friends who built it.

“They can really pass on their legacy to these kids on the Cape who are living and breathing these waters of Cape Cod,” Ms. Thompson said. “It has just been really nice to have this program in town. You see it on Chronicle but you don’t really see it in your backyard. It is happening here and that’s awesome.”

“I highly recommend it, it’s so fun and anyone can do it,” Sam said about the workshop. “I want to do it again next year.”

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