Last fall, sounds of hammering could be heard on the roof at Patterson Park Public Charter School. But it wasn’t roof repairs. Instead, 5th graders were doing some hands-on learning about what colonial settlers had to do to travel and trade. Using basic materials, simple tools and their hands, students were building an 18-foot canoe in the rooftop science classroom and workshop at the school.“I never thought I would make a boat in school,” said Jalen Bookman—who, with teacher Ryan Kaiser and the rest of his 5th-grade class, helped hammer nails, carry wood and glue pieces together.
But it wasn’t just lessons in history and boat building. “We teach in themes,” said Mr. Kaiser. “Reading, math, science, social studies—everything is involved with that theme. It all connected to the boat.” The students used math to figure out where to hammer the nails. and they learned about science concepts, including how and why things float and renewable resources.“The wood came from a tree that is easy to plant and regrow,” explained student alexander Ortega.David Fawley, parent of a 3rd grader at the school and a boat builder with Chesapeake Light Craft, volunteered his time to lead the kids. “at the beginning, I asked if they thought they could do this, and they said, ‘No way.’ By the end, seeing it come together in their minds was really the most gratifying part. There’s a great sense of accomplishment.”
The students who built the canoe are now in 6th grade, so this year’s 5th graders were in charge of painting. and quite a few students and adults were needed to carry the canoe, which can hold six adult passengers, down from the school’s rooftop workshop.after professional waterproofing at David Fawley’s workplace, the canoe will be launched this spring for a film students are making about the Battle of Baltimore. Both the film and the canoe will be on view at a special ceremony on May 17. The students have also been researching what happened in and around their Patterson Park neighborhood in the early 19th century.
The park is being added as a marker on the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail, which winds through Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., tracing troop movements and other events related to the War of 1812.These students are making history come alive in the present—and they’ve built a boat that will last into the future. “I learned it takes time and patience to make something so big and so useful,” said alexander. Just one more piece of learning hammered home by Patterson Park’s canoe builders.
City Schools has done an article on Peace Canoe and the Star Sangled Banner Trail National Park Service project we are doing.
This page is dedicated to the work and research my students do each day.