Rocking the Boat opened its new boat building shop and environmental science classroom in grand style on Thursday, March 25. The community was invited to the banks of the Bronx River to sit in handsome wooden boats built by students from borough schools, and for a celebration and ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The new 6,000 square-foot building includes ,500 square feet of shop floor where high-school students are empowered while learning how to build traditional wooden boats from scratch. The students learn teamwork in the process.
The new building also includes a kitchen, student lounge, library, and offices for the Rocking the Boat staff, according to founder and executive director Adam Geeen. Rocking the Boat is located at 812 Edgewater Road next to Hunts Point Riverside Park, the launching point from where students venture out on the Bronx River in the ships they build.
“The main purpose of the building is a boat building shop,” Green said. “This was a $1.2 million restoration of the existing warehouse.”
Green said that he is excited that the classroom will act as an environmental lab where students can conduct lab work on water samples they collect from the river. The classroom space includes digital computer equipment. Students in four different levels of programming are the scientists at Rocking the Boat.
After spending time rowing on the river and learning about ecology in the boat building, ‘on the water,’ and community rowing programs, some students are hired as paid environmental Job Skills Apprentices. This program, open to about 16 students at a time, uses the mediums of boat building and environmental restoration to develop practical skills. Itprepares young people to enter college, a trade-school, or the workforce.
Job Skills Apprentice Sherene Steer, a 17-year-old junior at Health Opportunities High School at 350 Gerard Avenue, said that the program allowed her to build on practical knowledge she received in previous programing at Rock the Boat. She is developing a portfolio of work that will allow her to advance her academic career. One of the main characteristics that Steer said she is learning at Rock the Boat is teamwork.
“When we row boats we need everyone cooperating,” Steer said. “We have to work together to record data collected from the river, and I think this is training us to work as a team. I can’t row a boat twenty miles by myself. I need teammates. So we learn to rely on each other for the basics.”
Rock the Boat will soon honor Sims Metal Management, a recycling company which is a Hunts Point neighbor and has facilities around North America and Australia, with the organization’s Whitehall Award. The award will be presented at a fund-raiser on Thursday, April 22 at the New York Yacht Club in Manhattan.
To get in touch with Rock the Boat, call (718) 466-5799.