2012-10-19 / Front Page

Ocean voyage

Students to track self-sailing boat
By Michael Kelley Staff Writer


Scarborough Middle School students Katy Jutras and Chris Rayner, right, explain how the fourfoot self-sailing boat was constructed to second-grade students Elle MacDiarmid, left, and Zac Bly. (Michael Kelley photo) Scarborough Middle School students Katy Jutras and Chris Rayner, right, explain how the fourfoot self-sailing boat was constructed to second-grade students Elle MacDiarmid, left, and Zac Bly. (Michael Kelley photo) Students in Scarborough schools will be learning about a world an ocean away next month, thanks to the power of technology.

This summer, as part of Sebago Education Alliance’s Student E-magination Camp on Aug. 10, four students from Scarborough participated in a boat-building exercise.

The alliance was founded in 2004 and is made up of educators from Bonny Eagle, Gorham, Raymond, Scarborough, Westbrook and Windham.

Through the project, students from the alliance’s five school districts built a fourfoot self-sailing boat. The boat is equipped with GPS technology so the students can track the boat.

In November, it will be launched from the Canary Islands off the coast of Morocco and Western Sahara in Africa.


Katy Jutras, Leah Desveaux and Chris Rayner were three of the Scarborough Middle School students who helped build a self-sailing boat during the summer. The boat, which was made through the Sebago Education Alliance, was on view at the middle school this week. In November it will set sail from the Canary Islands. (Courtesy photo) Katy Jutras, Leah Desveaux and Chris Rayner were three of the Scarborough Middle School students who helped build a self-sailing boat during the summer. The boat, which was made through the Sebago Education Alliance, was on view at the middle school this week. In November it will set sail from the Canary Islands. (Courtesy photo) “This is the first time we have done this,” said Terri Dawson, a technology integrator in the Gorham School District. “We heard about it for the first time last year and we decided this would be a great opportunity for technology integrators across the (Sebago Educational Alliance) to work together and collaborate.”

Dawson said a website has been set up for the technology integrators to share lesson plans on how the project will be intertwined into the K-12 curriculum.

The boat-building project was created by Educational Passages, a Maine-based company that started in 2008 to teach school-aged children about oceans around the world.

Dawson said the materials, supplies and directions needed to construct the boat were provided by the company.

Creating the boat was a new experience for Chris Rayner and Katy Jutras, two Scarborough Middle School students who helped in the process.

“First we had to learn about the boat, how it works and about floatation and about previous boats and the failures and successes,” Rayner said.

An important step in the process, Jutras said, was making sure the boat was watertight.

“We had to seal it all the way around so water didn’t get in,” she said.

Andrew Davidson, an educator in the STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – program at the middle school, said he applauded the project for its ability to bring schools together.

“We don’t do many projects district-wide, so the fact that we did this with so many other districts is really, really great. The kids got to work with kids from other schools. That collaborative effort could go so much further.”

Davidson said he would be interested in doing a similar project – on a smaller scale – in his classroom.

Scarborough Superintendent George Entwistle said the boat-building project gives students a good chance to use technology as part of their learning in a “much more hands-on and much more real” way.

“It’s an extension of how technology makes the world real for kids,” he said. “There are all sorts of opportunities to learn about geography, the ocean and ocean currents. Technology makes all that possible.”

Courtney Graffius, technology integrator for the primary schools in Scarborough, said, “This is a great example of project-based learning using the 21st century learning skills of communication, collaboration and creation.”

Graffius will be helping students and teachers at Blue Point, Eight Corners and Pleasant Hill schools follow the path of the boat on Google Earth using classroom projectors that were purchased this year for the three schools.

“They will be able to follow it and really get a great picture of where it is going though Google Earth,” Graffius said.

Graffius said this information will come in handy in the spring when second-grade students begin studying the world’s oceans. It will also help primary school students develop an understanding of geography.

“For primary school students, thinking about geography is a really abstract thing,” Graffius said. “They will be able to see where it is going and where it lands. It’s about taking a map and making it real for the kids.”

After the boat’s launch in November, students will be able to follow the track of the boat from its GPS unit through the website, www.iboattrack.com.

Both Rayner and Jutras said they are excited to see the path the boat takes once it is launched.

“I’m excited to see how it turns out,” said Rayner, an eighth-grade student. “I don’t know how long it will be out there.”

The students have made some predictions on where they think it will go. Wherever it does, however, is up to the ocean currents.

“It will be cool for us to see if it will go the way we thought it would or if it will go in a whole new direction,” said Jutras, who is in seventh grade.

Before the boat gets sent to the Canary Islands, it is touring the alliance’s five school districts. On Tuesday, Oct. 16, the boat was at Scarborough Middle School, where Rayner and Jutras talked about the experience with Zac Bly and Elle MacDiarmid, two second-grade students from Eight Corners Primary School who were interested in the project.

“I really want to figure out where it goes,” MacDiarmid said, adding she hoped it gets attacked by a great white shark.

Bly said he became interested in it when he heard it was “going all over the world.”

The boats have literally been found all over the world. According to the company’s website, one boat, constructed by students from Belfast Area High School, sailed over 8,470 miles, over 30-foot waves and through a hurricane. Other boats were found in France and Ireland. One boat, constructed by Mount Desert Community Sailing Center, was even found in the jungle in a tribal village in Panama.

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