High School Students Build and Launch Wooden Kayak

Last Wednesday, Marietta High School students celebrated months of hard work with the launch of a hand-built wooden kayak into the Muskingum River.

Six students spent their spring semester building a wooden kayak by hand, thanks to funding provided by the Marietta Community Foundation and the Marietta Rowing and Cycling Club. The project was completed through Marietta High School’s Art Program under the direction of Heath Rader.

“The project originated in an enrichment class where students can choose a project to work on,” said Rader. “In years past we have built long-bows with the students, out of wood and fiber glass. I have always wanted to build a wooden kayak, I thought this would be a neat project to do with this group of students.”

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Sophomores Faith Chichester and Emma Grammer, both art students, described the experience as enjoyable, fun, and calming. “It made me feel independent,” said Chichester. “It was encouraging to know that together we had the capability to build something like this.”

Grammer said the process also taught them patience. “We had to keep sanding it, to put more glue on it, to sand it again, over and over – so there was a lot of patience as we waited for the process to be complete.” Overall, the students and Mr. Rader spent more than 100 hours building and finishing the kayak.

This was a great opportunity for students to learn a new skill with their hands, and to practice patience and perseverance.

The project arrived to the school as a kit of parts; everything had to be assembled using a stitch and glue process. Pieces were first stitched together with wire, covered with epoxy, and then eventually covered with fiberglass. “There was a great deal of problem solving involved. The students had to be able to read the directions and figure out how to correctly complete each step,” said Rader.

On Wednesday, the students joined Mr. Rader on the Harmar Dock to see if the boat would float. The students took turns launching the kayak, using the kayak launch ramp donated by the Marietta Rowing & Cycling Club. Chichester said it was her first time ever being in a kayak. To everyone’s delight the kayak was buoyant and functioned beautifully, elegantly gliding on the Muskingum River.

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“We live in a society now where so much is accomplished digitally or on a computer, and at rapid speed,” said Mr. Rader. “This was a great opportunity for students to learn a new skill with their hands, and to practice patience and perseverance. None of us had ever built a boat before or knew how they were constructed, so this was a learning process for us all.”