Skip to content

Boating Educators gathered in Connecticut will honor Dick & Colleen Wagner: founders of The Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle

October 14, 2013


From October 15th to the 18th, The Center for Wooden Boats Founding Director, Executive Director, Youth Education Manager and Fleet Operations Manager will be visiting the Teaching with Small Boats Alliance 2013 Conference at Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut to learn and share their experiences in creating in Seattle and on Camano Island some of the nation’s premier hands on maritime education experiences.

Dick Wagner, Betsy Davis, Tyson Trudel and Kyle Hunter will present workshops, lead and participate in panel discussions, and be part of the audience as museum directors and educators from 65 different museums around the country gather to share knowledge and techniques about what works when teaching kids about science, technology, engineering, math and their own potential, through hands-on learning in small boats..

The 2013 Teaching with Small Boats Alliance Conference at Mystic is the fifth meeting in a series of gatherings that started when Wagner invited educators to come to CWB in Seattle in the 1990s to share notes and best practices. Since that first meeting there have been 3 more Teaching with Small Boats Conferences on both the East and West Coasts. “The goal today, as it was then, is to learn from each other, share notes, and borrow what works,” said CWB’s Wagner.” “Kids can learn amazing things in boats, if we just give them a chance.”

Colleen & Dick Wagner at CWBThis year’s conference opens Tuesday, October 15th, with a dinner honoring Dick and Colleen Wagner for all the work they have done to build The Center for Wooden Boats to the point where it is about to break ground on a new $6 million Education Center in Seattle bearing their name. “It’s only fitting that the conference open by saying thank you,” said Joe Youcha, Director of the, Building To Teach program at Alexandria Seaport in Alexandria, Virginia. “There would be no Teaching With Small Boats Alliance without Dick Wagner, and many of the individual organizations might not exist without Dick’s counsel, support, coordination and example.”

Twenty one years ago, Youcha was investigating what it took to create and run a boat based community program. “Dick gave me three days of his time, hours of conversation on the phone and innumerable letters,” said Youcha. “The result has been programming that reaches hundreds of young people in the nation’s capitol, and thousands of math students around the country. It wouldn’t have happened without Dick’s example and spark.”

At the conference in Connecticut, Wagner will participate in one of the very first panel discussions on how Maritime Education organizations can be created, built and led to success, and how the passion and drive to use small boats in education can be passed on to others in the organization and the community. He’ll be joined on that panel by educators from New York City, Portland, Oregon, and Alexandria, Virginia. That panel discussion will be moderated by CWB’s Executive Director, Betsy Davis. Davis will later participate in a panel discussion about how communities can raise funds and resources to offer these programs. CWB’s Youth Program Manager Tyson Trudel will join a panel with representatives from Museums and Youth Maritime Programs from Connecticut, Vermont, Boston and New York City to explore what it takes to design an effective program to use small boats to teach. Trudel will then moderate another panel that examines how to test and measure the programs you create to ensure they are effective and meeting the educational goals originally set for them.

Trudel will lead a separate conference session on how museums and schools can use model pond boats as teaching tools. Middle School 7th and 8th grade Students have built CWB’s fleet of 40-inch pond boat replicas of a famous 40-foot 1926 racing boat that is in the museum’s collection. The design for the Pirate pond boats is historical itself, created by famed yacht designer Ted Geary in 1927 from his design for the big racing boat. But since a Pirate Pond Boat takes a school year for a class to build, Trudel and the youth education team at CWB created an easier to build “Footie” pond boat that can be built by classes in around 16 hours, “With either boat, that process of learning to handle wood, use hand tools to shape the hull, and to build and sail your own small boat, can be an eye opening experience for kids that don’t get much hands on learning anymore,” said Trudel. “This not an iPhone app, build something gives a skill they take with them and have forever.” The Footie pond boat design developed by CWB has even been recognized by the International Footy Class Association. That international body issues a sail number for every CWB Footie Pond Boat built by students, which allows the boats to compete in regattas.

The Center for Wooden Boats will also serve on a panel discussing how best to ensure that the boat building techniques, technologies, culture and stories of indigenous peoples are included when telling our nations maritime history. For more than a decade The Center for Wooden Boats has hosted a Haida “Artist In-Residence” who has included school kids and visitors to CWB in the process of hand carving cedar canoes that have been common in Northwest waters for centuries. CWB is working with United Indians of All Tribes Foundation and Antioch University Seattle to keep that carving going while UIATF builds a new Northwest Native Canoe Center near CWB’s South Lake Union site.

This year’s Teaching With Small Boats Conference has expanded to four days to handle the number of educators and museum professionals who want to attend. And the next TWSB Conference is already being planned for the spring of 2015. That conference will be held back where it all started, at The Center for Wooden Boats, using both the Seattle and Camano Island locations.

Fittingly, since Dick Wagner was there when it all started, the next Teaching with Small Boats Alliance Conference is expected to be one of the very first events to use CWB’s new Wagner Education Center, the 9,200 square foot building that the museum will break ground on in Seattle’s Lake Union Park this winter. The opening reception in the 2015 conference is expected to be held in the new facilities’ Welcome Gallery before the gathered educators adjourn to CWB’s facility at Cama Beach State Park for the bulk of the panels, classes and workshops.


Scenes from the 2012 Teaching with Small Boats Alliance Conference at CWB


No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: