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Home > Magazine > Culture > Boatbuilding Apprenticeshop: Education and *EDUCATION*

Boatbuilding Apprenticeshop: Education and *EDUCATION*
January 11, 2013

In the new issue of "Messing About in Boats," there's an overview of the Maine Maritime Museum's Apprenticeshop boat-building program, with some blurbs from folks who'd attended. (MAIB is the world's best boat magazine,, black'n'white, edited by a near-90-year-old rockstar of the mail.)

Now, alt-ed that has an outdoor component has always struck me as providing the following good chances for break-throughs for people. The downside is that they're rare and expensive. How to bring such experience to all education?

Elise Brown: "My experience gave me patience and endurance and it completely changed my life. Until that point my education had been where I felt things, facts, arguments were being stuffed into me. At the Shop I felt like the lid had been opened to my being. I could dream anything, do anything. I felt freed. Building boats in a building with no heat, living the rustic lifestyle, failing and starting over, these made me comfortable with discomfort, so tackling difficult pursuits no longer seemed impossible. Since then I have been farming, firefighting, fostering and adoptive parenting. All hard and all wonderful beyond belief."


Ivy Robichaud: "I learned there is an alternative to every situation. At the Shop I got to communicate on a one-to-one basis with teachers and apprentices. Gathering info from two or three people gave me space to try different methods and decide for myself what worked best. I found that I could absorb the info instead of being force fed facts. The freedom to think encouraged me to tackle problems by myself and boosted my confidence. It set me in motion to where I am today."

...This testimony reminded me of my own shocking experience in a boatyard. If you pull out a big boat and need to repair, say, a rudder in a large boatyard, and the daily charge-clock is ticking on your time on dry land, if you're a newbie you'll ask around as to how to do it and you'll want to jump right in. You will get 6 different answers from 6 different experts, all who've done it many times. At first I completely panicked at this situation. I had to decide! It had to be good -- our lives depended on it -- but it also had to be quick and cheap. Part of what I did was weigh everything and determine the overall direction of the solution: were there common elements? "Make sure everything is dry first," that kind of thing. In the end I, too, grew comfortable and confident in my ability to problem-solve in this way. I don't recall encountering such a situation in school.

...But maybe I forget? I don't want to be hard on school! I'm sure I had breakthroughs in most every class. Really! Every subject is work and when something key sinks in you get the "Ah-ha!" response which I've heard is a big part of what makes life worth living. Whenever I had to pull out the stops and write a paper some of this must've come in. I do recall both suffering and breakthroughs! So, sure, there was decision-making and creativity at school. (What about "Public Speaking" class? Challenging!) I suppose the difference in the boatyard was that it mattered, there were longterm effects. Maybe it would be mean to throw schoolkids into such situations. : ) Maybe I was just inclined to the outdoors and couldn't wait to bust out of the walls and get there. ...Everybody needs to find their place!

But we shouldn't forget that walls are in the mind. A library can be the world. ...Although you actually have to think quick on your feet at the bizarre of Marrakesh! Still, the outdoors is as much a potential mind-trap as anywhere, I'm sure!

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