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At the Great Lakes Boat Building School (GLBBS), students will learn team work while building the whaleboat.
The process begins with the preliminary work being done by second-year students, while the first-year students are being introduced to classic woodworking skills, which involves building their toolboxes and being introduced to the fundamentals of lofting.
Second-year students will continue on with the next step, which is using the lofting lines to make the molds representing the hull shape, then setting the molds up in a building jig. Once the second-year students have completed the building jig, the actual boat construction begins with the building of the backbone.
Students will also learn how to choose the appropriate fasteners, and to properly install them in both the process of planking and framing. The Great Lakes Boat Building School, located in the beautiful Les Cheneaux Islands of the Eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan, offers a highly rated educational program designed to teach quality wooden boat building skills and preserve craftsmanship. On April 20, 193 Board Life Skills students took part in the First Annual Boat Competition championship. White Oaks Secondary School Grade 10 student Tyler Currie had such a fun and educational time designing, building and helping paddle his own boat during races at the Milton Leisure Centre in April, he can’t wait to do it again.
He was one of nearly 200 students who had spent weeks meticulously designing and building plastic boats to compete in friendly races against other students in the Life Skills program from Burlington’s Robert Bateman High School, Georgetown District High School and Milton’s E.C. The 13 boats raced at the Milton pool could only take on so much water before they started to sink, but that didn’t faze Currie.
This is the kind of positive attitude and can-do spirit that permeated the daylong First Annual Boat Competition championship, says Alex Sorgente, Head of Special Education Futures Program - Life Skills Development at White Oaks Secondary School.


The idea for the boat races was borne a few months earlier when Julie Syer, a teacher at White Oaks Secondary School, introduced the idea of providing an opportunity for the students to be involved in a design and technology project. The day's event involved students working in teams, with two students at each end of the pool to assist boarding, and two additional students in the boat navigating the water.
More than 250 people attended the races including parents, Board administrators and Milton Mayor Gordon Krantz. Not only did the boat races provide a lot of fun, there was a lot of learning too, Sorgente explains.
Another benefit of the boat races, Sorgente says, is helping students in the Life Skills program gain employability skills.
Sylvia Roberts, Life Skills teacher at Georgetown District High School, says the races went very well. After the races, Life Skills teachers did follow up work with their students, asking them what they liked about the event, what they learned and what they thought could be improved upon. Second-year students, having learned the required lofting skills in their first year, will loft the whaleboat to establish its full-size lines, which then will be used to form the necessary references and patterns required for accurately building this boat to the Beetle design. The building jig is designed for building the whaleboat right-side up, and also to allow plenty of height underneath for working on the bottom of the whaleboat.
Students will learn how the shape and install these critical parts, as well as shaping and installing the sculptured oak bow chocks that are unique to the whaleboat. As the boat got soggy, he just kept paddling, along with his partner, with his eyes fixed on the finish line.


On April 20, 193 students in the Halton District School Board’s Life Skills program took part and “it was an unforgettable and monumental event,” he says.
The concept of a cardboard competition already exists in the province for students in science and technology and official were confident they could modify this event for students in the Life Skills program.
The decision to use boats was based in part because boats are very tactile for students in the Life Skills program. She hopes the students learned skills like measurement, sportsmanship, following directions and camaraderie by cheering others on at the races. In this process, they will gain more experience in constructing a bending jig, as well as the steam bending process involved in bending the stem and sternpost. Students will learn more about choosing the correct woods and grain patterns for steam bending frames. There were issues with the pool allowing foreign materials in the chlorinated pool so teachers used Coroplast (plastic substance) instead of cardboard.
When the stem and stern post have been bent to shape, students will learn how to layout and carve the rabbet into the stem and sternpost and assemble them together on the building jig to form the backbone of the whaleboat. In going through the process of steam bending, in this case the frames are pre-bent on a mold, just as was done with the original whaleboats, followed by laying out, shaping and notching for the battens, and finally installing them.



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