Adventure and education went under sail recently through a program partnering Silver Lake Elementary School, Grapevine Parks and Recreation and Grapevine Community Sailing.
The program involved fifth-grade classes spending months working their way through an in-house designed science, technology, engineering and mathematics curriculum surrounding sailing, boat anatomy and engineering.
Silver Lake was awarded a $3,000 grant from the Grapevine-Colleyville Education Foundation to fund the program, along with time, facility and equipment donations from the Grapevine Parks and Recreation staff and the sailing organization, an educational non-profit group.
Last week, students showed off the boats they built at Lake Grapevine.
“We were testing their designs and technology to see how well they worked,” said Anita Clayton, assistant principal. “It was amazing. The boats really did well.”
She said the program involved students in groups of four building small boats with recyclable materials that were powered by wind, solar or electricity.
“They used liter bottles and other materials from home and the classroom and were able to come up with a design that worked,” Clayton said.
The students worked well together, the assistant principal said, “using the strength of each member of the team.”
She said the students loved the project, especially those who knew nothing about sailing. The class culminated with a two-day “regatta” in which they learned to sail real sailboats on the lake.
“This was something they knew nothing about,” Clayton said. “At first, some were nervous. But soon they were capsizing and righting the boats and having a ball.”
Fifth-grade teacher Juliette Betancourt said Clayton was a major catalyst, doing of a video of her being “stranded” in a boat that was out of gas and needing the students’ help finding a way to power her boat back safely without the use of fossil fuels.
In asking the students’ help, Clayton was asking them to “build a better world,” Betancourt said.
“They were so engaged,” Betancourt said. “It was delightful to see the light in their eyes. “
For many, it was their first time sailing.
“They had one of the best days of their lives,” the fifth-grade teacher said. “They went from excitement to fear to a complete confidence.”
A bonus, she said, is “we’re getting them ready for real life.”
Mike Lipari of Grapevine Community Sailing and Peter Doyle, recreation coordinator of outdoor programs with the city’s parks and recreation department, acted as expert consultants during the program, assisting the students with troubleshooting their boat construction.
“The exhilaration of the wind in your face as one glides across the water in a sailboat is like no other feeling,” said Doyle, who coordinates the city’s sailing programs. “It’s a pleasure to introduce sailing to those of any age. But to introduce sailing to children is an honor. My hope is that they, too, discover sailing as a passion that they strive to embark upon in their futures.”
Lipari agreed, adding, “The kids had a lot of fun. Most of them were sailing by the end of the day.”
Lipari said his group worked in harmony with the Grapevine Sailing Club’s Junior Program. That group’s mission is to develop knowledgeable junior sailors while instilling in them a love for the sport of sailing that will serve as a foundation for the future of the club and the sport.
The youth program also strives to interest and lead youth in developing safe sailing skills, represent the Grapevine Sailing Club in events across the state and develop curriculum that promotes self-esteem, camaraderie and sportsmanship on and off the water.
Zane Gordon and Trey Leathers, two Silver Lake fourth-graders who are avid sailors and members of the club’s junior program, helped teach the novices.
“At first, some kids were running from the boats, but by the end of the day we had to pry them out,” said Zane, whose life goal is “to sail the world.”
Trey, who plans to be a sailor or boat builder, said it was “a great experience” teaching others to sail, a skill that has given him longtime enjoyment because he enjoys “racing and making friends with other people from all over Texas.”