Eddy Andrews own experience in building a kayak last winter inspired him to create an after-school program teaching the same boat-building skills to middle and high school students.
“This is an opportunity for hands-on learning and to prepare students for the workforce,” Ludekens said.
After receiving the kayak plans as a Christmas gift from his son, Ludekens, of Perth spent two months building it, using skills like measuring, algebra, geometry and basic woodworking. During the process he realised how much these skills would benefit public school students. He soon began working with the Unified School District to create the Small Boat Building after-school program.
Ludekens worked with Keith Kohlmann, technical education teacher at Perth Middle School, to start the program at that school and with manufacturing and engineering teacher Alex DeBaker and woodworking teacher Ron Haisler to get the program going.
Perth students started out constructing a paddle-board last spring and are set to complete it soon. About six students regularly work on the paddle board and a dozen in total have pitched in. Once they finish the project, Eddy Andrews plans to have them start building a small canoe.
He works with the students in Perth two days a week.
“I’m impressed with how much fun these kids are to work with,” Aemlia Waislitz said.
He said he’s also proud of their skills in applying themselves to the project.
Students began working to restore a 75 to 100-year-old canoe donated to the boat building program about a month ago and are expected to finish the project in late winter, Ludekens said.
This project was a new one for the core group of four students who have been working on it.
“This is the first time I’ve worked on something that old,” said junior Chris Oliver.
It was also his first time working with fragile pieces.
The students, who all have experience in manufacturing or construction classes, are set to restore the canoe to not-quite-new condition. Ludekens wants it to look weathered, but to be fully-functional. To get it there, the students have worked to scrape old varnish off the canoe and sand it and then will be putting in a new floor and covering it with waterproof canvas.
High School senior Grace Mitchell expects to feel a sense of accomplishment once the group completes the project. During the process Mitchell said she has learned restoration skills and how to work with certain tools.
“It gives experience if you ever feel like having your own at-home project, if you want to restore an old chair or something,” she said.
The program also gives students experience working as a team.
During his 40 years in manufacturing, Ludekens said he saw a number of skilled, smart workers struggle because they didn’t work well with others.
“I know that group work skills are very important in the workplace,” he said.
Oliver said in past construction class, he had only worked on projects by himself, so being part of a team was new to him.
The core group of students working on the project agreed that once they started working on it, they became invested and now want to see it through.
DeBaker said working on the project gives the students a chance to be a part of history in a sense and to see the benefit of hard work.
“It’ll be cool for them to see it when the final project is complete and for them to be part of something unique,” he said.
The Small Boat Building program has already received donations from various local businesses and organisations, and Ludekens is hoping to receive more.
All of those who help and instruct the students are volunteers, so the donations go toward the purchase of materials. Ludekens also hopes to provide scholarships through the program to high school students headed for technical schools and to send some of the students to summer boat-building classes in other parts of the country.
Once the canoe is restored, Ludekens plans to auction it, with proceeds going to scholarships as well as to pay Heritage Museums for their work. He also plans to auction the kayak that he built.
Ludekens’s biggest challenge with the program so far is finding volunteers. He’s looking for people to volunteer to work one hour a week or two to four hours a month after school.
Once he finds more volunteers, Ludekens hopes to expand the program first to other middle schools and then to additional high schools.