Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory trains much more than woodworking skills. The after-school program for high school students is being celebrated for using the boat building craft as a way to learn life skills that serve young people wherever their careers take them.

The Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory provides out-of-school-time apprenticeships to Philadelphia youth. Through immersion in the maritime arts and sciences, youth build on their own social and emotional strengths and develop the competencies and resilience necessary to thrive in post-secondary education and employment.

 Boat building is more trial-and-error. You learn from those mistakes. 

It is also a recipient of a grant from the Crown Foundation, one of eight organizations being studied as part of the Susan Crown Exchange, each of which received a $100,000 grant with one string: the groups must share with each other those techniques that are most successful in meeting their goals to help students. 

For the Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory, that means teaching other skills.  Executive director Brett Hart told the New York Times  for everyone in today's economy, "the ability to be adaptive, collaborative, resourceful are the tools we need to survive." 

Student Yamir Jackson-Adens, 18, told reporter Paul Sullivan, "In boat building, you learn stuff. You're free to move. You don't have a whole lot of restrictions." In words summarizing the epitome of a woodworking apprenticeship, he says, "It's more of a trial-and-error kind of thing. You learn from those mistakes. In school, if you fail, you've failed."

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It was founded in 1996 by Geoffrey McKonly, who believed disengaged youth needed a hands-on activity in a constructive environment to help them develop and apply academic skills. Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory transitioned in 2010 from its initial school-based, vocational-technology approach, to an out-of-school-time model, expanding both the numbers it serves annually as well as the range and duration of its programming.


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