Nicholas Pagon

Nicholas Pagon, Founder

Philadelphia Waterborne is an educational project, first and foremost.  Its primary focus is upon reinforcing core educational curricula in city schools.  The founder is an experienced teacher, having taught in Philadelphia public and charter schools, as well in a Pennsylvania academy for children with language-based learning differences, and has worked with students ranging from 3rd grade through high school.  He holds a Masters Degree in Education, as well as Pennsylvania teaching certifications in SPED (K-12), Middle School English, and Middle School Math.  He is also certified in the Wilson Reading System, and has participated extensively in other education-oriented development seminars.  Through these educational experiences, he has become a firm believer in the idea that the human brain and the human hand have co-evolved interactively over the millennia, and that they each work best cooperatively rather than in isolation — that, in short, students generally learn more efficiently and memorably by doing.  The Philadelphia Waterborne program is built on this foundation.

Pagon is also a lifelong sailor and woodworker, with a deep interest in worldwide maritime history, especially that of Philadelphia.  Ship-building, navigation, and world exploration are fundamental in human history, and consequently also have a clear, deep, and direct historical connection to associated developments in mathematics, geography, astronomy, and most of the core physical sciences (as well as world literature, from at least the days of Homer to the present day).  To this teacher, these associations further suggested significant educational possibilities, interlinking history, practice, and core curricular standards.

Over ten years ago, these connections helped lead him to volunteer in the traditional wooden boat shop of the Independence Seaport Museum.  Working alongside some of the premier shipwrights in the country, he has since learned a great deal about the art and science of wooden boat-building.  He then also helped develop after-school programs for city students in the Museum’s boat-shop facilities — initially on a voluntary basis, but subsequently as a Museum employee overseeing both the boat-shop and the Museum’s educational programming.  That programming continues today.

In June, 2013, Pagon then set out to independently organize Philadelphia Waterborne.  The boat-building employed in this later project is simplified, specifically intended to occur at school locations rather than in a Museum facility.  It also makes use of building techniques which are relatively modern (that is, they are not as strictly rooted in historical practices as the Museum requires).  Finally, it is almost entirely organized around educational, rather than historical or traditional, concerns.  Although a working rowboat is a definite, and necessary, outcome of the Philadelphia Waterborne programs, this is only as a spur to educational reinforcement — the concerns of the boat-building, in other words, are secondary to the educational designs.

Pagon’s undergraduate major was in English Literature, and he also has a Masters degree in Asian Literature.  Prior to becoming a teacher, he had a 20-year business career, and has an extensive background in financial analysis, business planning, and senior management.  All of these experiences have been useful in the organization, management, and curricular development of Philadelphia Waterborne.


Carolyn Hesse Photo

Carolyn Hesse began working part-time at Philadelphia Waterborne in March, 2017.

Carolyn is formally trained as a fine artist, woodworker, and boat builder (Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Alfred University). She and Nick met while working at Independence Seaport Museum and have remained friends and colleagues. Carolyn is Philadelphia Waterborne’s Shop Manager. She also works part-time with partner organizations Bartram’s Garden and Glen Foerd.




Joanne Douglas began working with Philadelphia Waterborne as the Internship & Summer Programs Coordinator in 2017. Joanne holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania and is working on a Master of Environmental Studies, also at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a science teacher at Jubilee School in West Philadelphia and works part-time with partner organizations Bartram’s Garden and Glen Foerd. At Philadelphia Waterborne, Joanne developed and implemented the first summer environmental internship program, which is a program housed at Bartram’s Garden and shared by numerous boatbuilding and environmental education programs across Philadelphia. This summer, Joanne will be running all of Philadelphia Waterborne’s summer programs.


Chloe Wang PhotoChloe Wang began working in River Programs at Bartram’s Garden in July 2017 as a post-bac fellow of Haverford College, where she studied chemistry and environmental studies. She assists with management of all on-water programming at Bartram’s Garden, which includes Philadelphia Waterborne rowboat launches and programs that invite the public to utilize the rowboats. She is also supporting supervision and curriculum development for this summer’s internship program, and developing a civic science water quality monitoring initiative on the Lower Schuylkill River. In addition to her work at Bartram’s, Chloe has designed interdisciplinary, field-based environmental studies courses with Haverford faculty, exhibited artwork at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, and researched Gulf of Mexico oil, deep sea microbe-mineral interactions, honeybee health, and plastics in the Delaware River watershed.