Boston Public School Program

Community Boat Building brings critical academic subjects and skills — math, science, social studies, spatial thinking, reading and writing — to life with experiential learning opportunities for low-income children in Boston Public Schools. The core concept of the program revolves around wooden rowboats that are built in our shop in teams of 5-6 students each. In addition, we also draw on the outstanding natural features of Boston and its rich history to bring learning to life. Since its founding in 2007, CBB has worked with over 1,000 students in Boston.

All of our programs are integrated tightly with the Boston Public Schools curriculum so that learning and enthusiasm translates back to the classroom and makes a lasting impact on educational outcomes.CBB works with fourth and fifth graders during their regularly scheduled school day over the course of the school year. By offering students opportunities to engage in hands-on learning on Boston’s waterfront, their world becomes bigger and their learning comes alive. Our programs help students boost confidence and develop a range of skills, enhancing and connecting what is learned in the classroom, making learning real and relevant.

Program Components

Boat Building

The winter portion of the 5th grade curriculum is boat building. The teams each loft and build a 10ft flat bottom, rowing skiff. The lofting portion involves drawing the boat, full size, on the floor. The boat is drawn from four different views, side (profile), bottom (plan), front (bow body plan), rear (stern body plan). The dimensions and details for the full size drawing are taken from a 1ft = 1in scale drawing and a table of offsets. Lofting engages students in the practical application of scale drawings, measuring and three-dimensional visualization (Thinking Spatially). The building portion takes students from lofting to finished boat. Students constantly refer back to their lofting to understand how to fit the boat together. Moving back and forth between a 2D drawing and a 3D object provides students with practice and practical application of spatial thinking.

Oral History Project

The Oral History Project helps to put their work building a boat into cultural context and sharpens literary and analytical skills. At Young Achievers in Mattapan, students report on African American involvement in the maritime industry. Students conduct interviews in small groups with African Americans who either have personal experiences working in the maritime industry or close connections through a relative.


Students from Harvard-Kent in Charlestown follow a similar format but their research is based on the storied history of the schooner Roseway. At the end of the school year all students will have the opportunity to sail aboard Roseway in Boston harbor.


After two interviews, students transcribe recordings of the conversations and compose essays about their subjects. The culmination of the project is a publishing party where students present their interviewees with a book of their work.

Marine Science Research

CBB works with Northeastern University’s Marine Science Center to help monitor local ecosystems. In their boat building teams, students will deploy a sensor to determine pollutants in the water in Fort Point Channel. The results will be collected and compiled by the Science Center and incorporated into a comprehensive study on water quality.

Swimming and Rowing

For their safety on the water and as an important life skill, CBB students participate in swimming lessons over the course of the year. By the spring, they will have acquired the necessary proficiency to be able to navigate a row boat on their own from one of CBB’s affiliated rental facilities. Students also practice rowing in collaboration with the Hull Lifesaving Museum and the Boston Rowing Center. The students’ rowing practices will culminate in a day of informal racing on launch day in mid-June at Jamaica Pond. This event is always a great celebration, when teachers and families join students for the excitement of actually launching and rowing the boats they have built. With swimming certification and confidence in their rowing abilities, students will be able to use their boats all summer long.

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