120 children enrolled in Brooklyn Boatworks’ STEM and life skills-focused program launched their hand-built optimist prams on June 14 from Pier 2 in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The launch is the culmination of years of student work, with boats in process before the pandemic caused the program to pivot to online learning for a year. While the optimists lay dormant, the organization Brooklyn Boatworks was anything but, hard at work supporting students with resource calls to families, weekly educational online offerings and a variety of emergency health, food, funeral and housing resources.
Once the program resumed in person in 2021, students were back to learning practical and interpersonal skills via traditional wooden boat building, using just four sheets of plywood to create a sea-worthy vessel. With no prior experience necessary, students learned tool safety, how to read design plans, how to build boat models, sawing, drilling and gluing and participated in in field trips to the waterfront to learn about New York City’s maritime history, explore the local marine ecosystems and learn about future educational opportunities.
A graduation ceremony for the students was held at noon at Pier 2 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, featuring addresses from New York City public officials and Tracy Edwards, the skipper of Maiden and founder of The Maiden Factor, a girls’ education foundation with a special interest in STEM learning for marginalized youth, followed by a 12:30 launch of the boats.
“The Maiden Tour was supposed to bring us to New York in 2020, coinciding with the original launch of the Brooklyn Boatworks boats, but then we got delayed because of the pandemic. But, of course, they were delayed too, and it all came together perfectly for us to be here,” says Edwards. “Sailing has so much to teach us about math and science, but also in terms of life skills. It’s a really special program.”
For more on the Maiden Factor, visit themaidenfactor.org.