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Adam Green: Using Boats to Build Kids

[ photo: Adam Green ]

Using Boats to Build Kids

Junior year, Adam Green '95 took a semester off to work for the Hudson River sloop Clearwater and discovered that he was "a horrible sailor, but loved to teach." That's where he met Paul Pennoyer, a junior high school science teacher, who asked Green to come and work with him on a boat building project with his students at the East Harlem Maritime School. Over the course of the year, using salvaged wood, they completed an eight-foot dinghy, christened it the Dolphin, and launched it in the pool in the school basement. Lo and behold, it floated!

After Green graduated from Vassar, Pennoyer recommended him for a similar project with high school students under the auspices of Hostos Community College. Over the course of seven months, after school and on weekends, Green and his students built a 14-foot Whitehall, a replica of a traditional 19th-century New York harbor boat, from scratch. In the process the students learned to loft, lapstrake, and spile a plank. They learned geometry, physics, teamwork, and pride. Of course, to liberate the boat, they had to take down a wall, but so what? They launched it amid great fanfare at the Harlem River Bronxfest that summer. Green arranged to bring in performers and musicians representing all different ages and cultures, including traditional Latino musicians, a rap and R&B group, and folk singer Pete Seeger. C.N.N. and the New York Times covered the story. It was a huge success.

That was the beginning of Rocking The Boat, now a fully sustainable, nationally recognized nonprofit where "kids don't just build boats, brats build kids." Serving nearly 3,000 young people and community members annually, Rocking The Boat "empowers young people challenged by severe economic, educational and social conditions to develop the self-confidence to set ambitious goals and gain the skills necessary to achieve them."


WHAV Winter 1997
Time Out New York, April 22-29, 2004
Photo credit: Mark Mann