SEAS looks to develop program with local high school

By Dan Colton
for The Beacon

Geoff Rudolph stands in one of SEAS’s bays. Numerous boats of varying types overwinter at the facility until the weather warms up during the spring and summer. – Beacon photos by Dan Colton

Two programs could be developed as soon as this summer and fall.

“We’re hoping to have a sort of summer camp that will allow the kids to get on the water through Etude’s summer program,” Rudolph said. “In the summer what we’d do on the waterfront is a lot different than what we do in the (SEAS) building during the winter. In the summer, it’s hands-on, experiential learning how to sail and teaching through actual experience.”

Rudolph said winter programs would utilize SEAS’s large facility on Superior Avenue for building lessons and lectures. There, kids would spend the colder months focused on classroom-style learning  on topics like boating mechanics, hand tools, knot-tying and the construction of craft.

But whatever season, Rudolph said working and exploring the benefits of the maritime industries broadens perspectives, especially for youth who’ve had little to no exposure on the water.

“A lot of kids don’t get that they’re landlocked,” Rudolph said. “And once we get them on the water, there is a sense of freedom that builds personal awareness, personal self-esteem, better team building skills … and it’s really a fast process. It’s beautiful what happens in a short amount of time.”

Etude High School is already involved in waterfront sciences, and each year hosts a Walk on Water project at Little Elkhart Lake. During that project, students take everyday materials and build flotation devices in order to study the underpinning physics and hydrology.

Etude Director Ted Hamm said he wants to see that current program fleshed out in tandem with SEAS. He said the hands-on approach proposed by SEAS is a mirror fit to Etude’s mission of experiential learning and individual experimentation.

ROWBOATS are among the types of craft constructed at the SEAS facility during colder months. Rudolph said he hopes to eventually have local students involved in the building process.

“How do you engage kids in learning?” Hamm said. “You make it enjoyable to do. Then you have kids learning all sorts of things they’re not even thinking about. That’s really the philosophy here.”

Along with exciting, relevant educational opportunities, Hamm said hands-on and real-world experiences afford students additional lessons, including communication methods, perseverance and self-discipline — skills which Hamm calls “habits of professionalism.”

“We are excited about partnering with SEAS,” Hamm said. “We think it’s a good fit.”

Etude Engineering Instructor Timothy Pasche said his classes have worked with other local organizations to expand programming in the past. Businesses like Plymouth Foam, Rockline and EOS have all contributed to the studies of hydrology and physics.

“We are adding in SEAS as an expert in buoyancy and boat design/development to help out students in their feedback loop and just providing effective models of water recreation,” Pasche wrote in an email.

He said the school also wants to incorporate SEAS into its Maker Break program and utilize building kits at SEAS to give kids more tangible lesson plans.

“This program is in its infancy and will be developed over the next few months, so stay tuned until we have more information to share,” Pasche wrote.

SEAS offers multiple classes that are open to the public.

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