Supporting Joe Youcha and the Teaching With Small Boats Alliance (TWSBA)

The March 2017 JD Catalog featured a boatbuilding legend worth sharing again (and in more depth) here on the blog roll. Joe Youcha has spread the art & enjoyment of boatbuilding to more humans than most of us will ever understand, and the curriculum he has built is responsible for also generating enthusiasm in the educational process that is wooden boatbuilding. His curriculum, entitled Teaching With Small Boats, is in use by most small classroom type boat builders who are, as the program’s name explains, building boats to teach.

Joe has woven the STEAM school requirements (Science, tech, engineering, arts and math) into boatbuilding so that kids not only embrace the art of boatbuilding, but as they do so – they are using important and now required theories from STEAM that kids thought was boring, too challenging or just not their cup of tea. Suddenly measuring, finding angles and thinking about shapes of hulls, sails or even oars, has made math, technology, science art and engineering much more fun.

And that’s just the classroom part – when these young boat builders take to the water and see the rewards of their labor and learning, it advances not only the STEAM pieces for a better classroom experience, but it shares the loves of the water, of boating and boats and of creating and building something meaningful.  This overall experience is something that the TotalBoat team finds incredibly important and as such we are very proud to feature Joe’s work in our catalog and to support the TWSBA as a sponsor.

Read more about Joe Youcha and the Teaching with Small Boats Alliance below and then visit Joe at the TWSBA Conference in St Michael’s, Maryland April 27-29th. 

Joe Youcha – Teaching with Small Boats Alliance / Building to Teach
Location: Alexandria, VA
JD customer since: 1992
Specialty: Community boat building

Joe Youcha’s name might sound familiar to long-time readers of WoodenBoat Magazine, as many of his submissions have been published over the years. The former director at the Alexandria Seaport Foundation began teaching with small boats there back in 1992, one of the only community boat building programs at the time. It was at the 2008 Wooden Boat Show (Mystic, CT), that the Teaching With Small Boats Alliance was born. The Teaching with Small Boats Alliance (TWSBA) is a collaboration of educators and programs that teach math, science and other essential skills through the process of boat building.

Some 85 people from 60 organizations attended the first TWSBA conference in 2010. As of just a few years later, over 300 organizations are utilizing the program to serve over 25,000 participants a year!

Joe’s signature program is called Building to Teach. This program trains educators to use a hands-on building process that helps students not only develop and apply math skills like measuring, fractions, and practical geometry, but also learn communication, planning, and responsibility.

“We help students develop comportment, engagement, concentration, preparedness, confidence, and perseverance. The cultural completeness of the maritime setting enables students to address philosophical, historical, language, arts and STEM subjects simultaneously.”

Supported by the Office of Naval Research, Building to Teach’s goal is to show students how to apply fundamental STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) knowledge to build both model and full-sized boats. The program has provided engagement and opportunity for youths who are often from disadvantaged backgrounds and likely wouldn’t otherwise experience boating at all in their formative years.

Jamestown Distributors has partnered with the program, supplying the materials needed to build small boats all over the country. In Joe’s opinion “Having one, knowledgeable, supportive supplier is wonderful. When you can get everything you think you need, it saves a lot of time. Nothing is worse than having a group of young people standing around looking at you because you don’t have the right supplies.  JD has understood the value of our work to the wooden boat community and more importantly to our community at large.”

The Community Boating Center in New Bedford, Ma is a great example of Building to Teach in action. Under the direction of CBC Education Coordinator Richard Feeny, local kids built 3 Bevin’s Skiffs, first building scale models and then tackling the full-sized 12′ boats.

Working with marine plywood, lumber, nails, caulk and paint, they successfully saw the Andrea McCoy, Global Explorer, and Missy D (italics) through to completion. Prior to participation, some of the children had never wielded even a hammer. Feeny watched their confidence grow and their worldview change “They built these things from scratch, and now they’re cruising around the harbor. They get in a boat and look back at the city, and there’s a perspective shift—and you don’t know where it will take them.” (can we attribute this quote properly somehow? What newspaper was it in and when?”

Joe feels that “boat building is important; but building our children is more important – for all our futures. Building boats provides a great project to engage folks of all generations. In my opinion, that’s when the best teaching happens. It’s not just hard skills, like math and science. More importantly it’s showing young people the value and usefulness of knowledge, as well as them seeing they have a place in our community. If they learn that through wooden boats, those wooden boats will always be a part of their life story.”

Want to learn more? Get Involved?

Attend the 2017 Teaching With Small Boats Alliance Conference

Where: The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Maryland

When: April 27 – 29, 2017

Why: The conference brings together maritime educators & programs to facilitate collaboration, encourage idea sharing, and share best practices and projects through workshops, panel discussions, and hands-on experiences.  Registration costs $150. This includes conference fees, breakfast, lunch and dinner on Thursday, 4/27, and Friday, 4/28, as well as breakfast and lunch on Saturday, 4/29.

Joe Youcha – TWSBA

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