About Us

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Philadelphia Waterborne is a program in Engaged Learning, an educational initiative rooted in the cultural arts and designed to demonstrate these arts’ crucial importance to student educational outcomes.

We believe that the hand and the brain work best in concert, and that students learn best by doing. Project-based, immersive, and experiential, our programs primarily use small boat-building, environmental education, and maritime history as a means to engage students more fully in certain core school curricula.

Working in partnership with both Philadelphia School Partners and local Cultural Arts Partners, Philadelphia Waterborne offers area middle- and high-schools structured boat-building programs which can be implemented with students at their schools’ locations. Small groups of students (in their own schools) meet weekly to build, and then (at partner locations) launch and operate a small wooden rowboat:

  • They must consciously apply educational skills learned in the classroom to do this
  • They are engaged and focused because they are building a boat that they will themselves launch and row
  • They have an aesthetic engagement in how the boats are shaped, finished, and painted
  • They have pride in a tangible accomplishment that can be shared with the broader community.

The students build the boats as a team, they jointly explore the design considerations, the mathematics, the physics and geometry, even the cultural history of boats, and they launch and row the completed boats on local rivers together, dependent upon their own practical accomplishment. They also, by the by, obtain definite craft skills along the way.

The following pages provide additional information on our programs and approach: