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The Columbia River Maritime Museum program engages with students through distanced and in-person learning.

COURTESY PHOTO: COLUMBIA RIVER MARITIME MUSEUM - Fifth-graders at Columbia City Elementary School study for the Miniboat Program in fall 2019.It's hard to say how many fifth-grade students at Columbia City Elementary School will enter careers in boat building, but they're certainly getting hands-on training thanks to the Columbia River Maritime Museum's innovative "miniboat" program.

The Astoria-based museum is bringing its Mobile Miniboat Makerspace to students during this period of remote learning.

The idea is to help students design and build a five-foot-long, seaworthy boat that will eventually make a trek across the Pacific Ocean later this winter.

It's a program that involves participation from the other side of the Pacific Ocean, as well. Sister schools in Japan and Kiribati launch fleets of their own, ideally headed in our direction.

COURTESY PHOTO: COLUMBIA RIVER MARITIME MUSEUM - A student in Vancouver, Washington, works on a boat part as a participant in the Columbia River Maritime Museum's Miniboat Program.Due to the coronavirus, the Miniboat Mobile Makerspace will allow students to meet with instructors at the makerspace outdoors, practicing social distancing. This will accompany weekly virtual visits that will happen in partnership with classroom teachers. Students will learn how to design, build, paint and prepare their boats.

The launch date isn't known yet, but the fifth-graders are working toward it, with the hope their creations can set sail in early 2021.

"With COVID, there is no exact date of launching," said Nate Sandel, the museum's education director. "We're targeting a day for January (or) February for the launches of the miniboats."

Sandel enjoys the experience of teaching students about boats.

"I think the most important part of my job is to bring experiences to students and then to always have those experiences being dictated by the students," Sandel said. "I'm in such a lucky position to, with my great team, design these great education programs."

Students will also consult with experts from the National Weather Service, Oregon State University scientists, and those from the maritime industry, including the U.S. Coast Guard and Columbia River bar pilots.

Speaking of students at Columbia City, Sandel said, "The really great thing is these students were in fourth grade last year. They got to see myself, and our team, come in and all the excitement that electrifies the school. Now they actually get to be a part of it. So it was really cool that they were already familiar with the program."

The museum is asking for the public's help to keep the Miniboat Mobile Makerspace afloat. A GoFundMe donation page has been set up so the community can support the project. Donations are also needed to help fund the purchase of a trailer and outfit it for the project.

To learn more about the project, you can visit the Facebook page for the CRMM Miniboat Program or visit the Columbia River Maritime Museum at crmm.org. COURTESY PHOTO: COLUMBIA RIVER MARITIME MUSEUM - A student in Vancouver, Washington, paints a section of boat hull for the Miniboat Program.


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