The Springs Elementary School was briefly turned into a model boat factory last week as exuberant members of a fourth-grade class assembled tiny sailboats under the tutelage of East End Classic Boat Society members.
Youngsters ages nine and 10 spent two two-hour sessions sanding, painting, and assembling components provided by the club and learning some basic boat nomenclature before water testing their little craft.
It was the second year in a row that the club’s education outreach program has been underway. It began in 2018 at Amagansett School before being
expanded this year to include Springs.
The sparkplug behind the operation is Stuart Close, the classic boat society’s education director. Close, a Springs resident, formerly taught chemistry at Rye Country Day School and was sailing director at the Larchmont Yacht Club.
To prepare for their sessions with the kids, Close and Charles Fuchs of Montauk spend long hours cutting small wooden hulls that the children sand and paint as well as cutting material for sails, and preparing other items that go in the assembled models.
Close began developing the program last year with Amagansett teacher liaison Kathy Solomon after he was approached by Christine Sciulli, a parent with Amagansett School’s shared decision-making committee.
Sciulli thought a program collaborating with the boat club would be a nice fit because “many members of the community and their relatives depend upon the sea for their livelihood” and the school has no industrial arts program, Close explained.
Before they get their hands busy, Close gives the children a primer on basic nautical nomenclature, explaining that the front of the boat is the bow, the rear is the stern, port is left, and right is starboard.
The Springs School came into the program this year after classroom mom Laura Molinari, Close’s neighbor, heard about the activity in Amagansett and thought it would make a nice year-end activity. “We needed one last project for the kids,” she said.
In addition, Fuchs’ granddaughter, Evann Castillo, was in the class. After hearing about the success of last year’s class, teacher Melissa Knight volunteered she and her class.
Knight said the program gives the children “hands-on” training they’re not usually exposed to and they get information about a sailboat’s parts and how they work.
Her class of fourth graders listened carefully as Close explained to them how to tie a figure-eight knot to secure the mainsheet tied to a hole in the sail.
Close said that since last year he has simplified the parts for the children to put together, but even with the help of other club members, it took some time to glue in a chopstick that served as a mast, tie the lines, and insert pieces of a thin wooden tongue depressor that served as rudder and keel.
The work was done on tables in the school’s courtyard as boat club members stood by to provide a helping hand when needed.
In the first session, students garbed in protective glasses and dust masks sanded the hull blanks and then painted them in a color scheme of their choice.
The assembly part “is more difficult. This is where things start to break,” Close warned.
Kevyn Gutierrez said the class “is fun — it’s really creative.” One of his classmates noted happily that in addition to being fun building the boat, “you can bring it to the beach.”
Mara MacDonald, a classroom mom whose daughter Ginger Griffin was part of the session, noted that the program, “is a great opportunity for kids. It’s something they’re not normally exposed to.”
“Now were gonna try a sea trial,” Close said, as the children, yelping with excitement, ran over to a group of water-filled plastic wading pools to see their little boats in action. “Mine’s sinking,” worried one boy as water trickled over the deck. His misgivings were premature and the boat bobbed along.
Asked what the class is titled, Close quipped that it was, “Elementary Yacht Design.”
“We’d love to have you back next year,” Knight told him later.