By Lorne Swarthout
On September 10th the boatbuilding crew at VCB hosted a class of special needs young people from the JCC “Connections” program. Thirteen young men and women spent two hours learning about rowing and boatbuilding on Pier 40. It was a high energy afternoon that was experiential and hands-on. When it was all over there were lots of smiles.
Andrew, Marcel, and Lorne were the “teachers” for this class, which came downtown through the efforts of Lori Rosenfeld and Hannah Badain of the Jewish Community Center. Helene Richter, a friend of the JCC and an autism advocate, helped bring us together. A number of other adults accompanied the young people.
The VCB team propped up the King Tide out on the walkway in order to introduce the class to the experience of rowing. Andrew supervised as students took turns shipping and sweeping an oar. He also took the young people, carefully, two by two, down onto the floating dock to feel the roll of the waves and the flow of the river.
Marcel and Lorne set up a number of stations in the shop to introduce basic woodworking/boatbuilding skills. The students were introduced to drawing with a batten, using a hand saw, pushing a block plane, and smoothing with files and sandpaper. When they were done each student had a miniature oar. Painting the oar was the last step.
When we were all done we gathered for a group photo. But there was one more lesson! Dave was using the power lift with a scale; suddenly he became the center of attention. There was a quick lesson in addition and subtraction as heavier and lighter loads were hoisted up and down.
We “teachers” learned a lot about lesson planning and time management, what works and what doesn’t. Should the JCC and VCB schedules come together in the future we can all build on this very positive experience.