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Having Fun While Not Sailing

Published on August 1st, 2018

Every summer there are countless programs introducing children to sailing. Some take to it immediately, whereas others are hesitant. But with such a diverse sport that blends science, safety, skill, and fun, assuming every kid is going to find enjoyment the same way is naive.

Mystic Seaport (Mystic, CT), which offers a number of summer camp programs that provide unique learning adventures, has a week-long Float Box Derby where the kids aged 8 to 14 years create their own boats and then test them in the Fool’s Regatta.

“The whole concept of the flow box derby is trying to get our kids to do problem-solving,” explained Ben Ellcome, Supervisor of Sailing Programs. “Each day there’s a different challenge that they have to take on and that challenge has a little bit of both building in it, a little bit of teamwork in it, and a little bit about structure.

“By the end of the week they know a little bit more about sailing and boating and kayaking because they know a little bit about how boats actually work.

“We started off with a very simple challenge where they had to just build a boat out of recycled material and out of that we talked about displacement. We got them to think about the size of their boat, how big it was, and how that relates to flotation.

“We also walked around Mystic Seaport to talk about all the different hull shapes and what hull shapes are used for. This delves into the physics of what a boat looks like, in very simple terms, so they’re now thinking about boat shape.

“Then we moved into structure and components; what are we doing to actually build all of these different pieces of boats and then we just keep building on those until they get to the point when they’re building a full-scale boat that one of them can fit in using all of those terms and ideas.”

Said one of the kids, “Thinking what your boat is going to be before you actually make it is probably my favorite part about it.”

“We often say that when we’re doing programs like this, it’s not about the boat. It’s about the kid,” continued Ellcome. “I think that all of our kids have moved along in an interesting way – a little bit about boat building and a little bit about interpersonal stuff.

“They’re having fun while not sailing, which sounds really odd because we run a sailing camp. But if we only ever ran sailing classes we’d only ever reach one group of kids.

“Not every kid wants to grow up and be a sailor so the goal is how the program is giving them multiple ways of looking at their experience on the water instead of just running pure sailing camps, so that’s been really cool.”

Here’s a video which details the program:


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