Program guides students through boat building using academics

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A special program for local high school students finished with a launch into the Delaware River. (WPVI)

A special program for local high school students finished with a launch into the Delaware River on Saturday outside the Independence Seaport Museum.

The students were christening the Mako and the Vendetta, ending a 33 week after school program where the kids made the boats themselves.

Organizers named this the SAILOR Program.

Jennifer Totora explains, "SAILOR is an acronym for Science and Art Innovative Learning On the River."

The idea is to use traditional boat building and on-water education to advance proficiency in STEM subjects - science, technology, engineering and math.

Totora tells us, "It's a really dynamic program where they build the boat, but by building the boat they're really learning about STEM, and really hands-on and fun and engaging way."

Student Nina Brown says, "It took from the winter to the summer where we just worked with the different materials, different people, and we collaborated to make this boat."

And Nora Manosca says, "Learning a lot of history, learning a lot of skills, and meeting new people definitely is part of the exciting part. And how many people can say they worked in a museum when they were 16, 17?"

The young adults are Title 1 eligible middle and high school students, and the Independence Seaport Museum became their workshop.

Shipwright mentors and STEM instructors became their teachers. The handcrafted wooden duck boats became the students' final exam - starting with only blueprints and a backbone.

On graduation day the young builders gathered together for the first time, swapping champagne for sparkling cider, and some saying the glimpse into boat building might actually launch into a career.

Nora tells Action News, "Ever since then I've kept my relationship with the Seaport Museum. I worked during the summer as a dock hand, and I continued with the SAILOR Program this year building an actual duck boat, which is pretty exciting."
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