NWMC Hosts Teaching With Small Boats Alliance Conference this November

Kelsey BrennerAll, Announcements

By Jake Beattie, Executive Director

“The sea is the most powerful teacher we know” is something we say at the Northwest Maritime Center because we believe it to the core. The good news is that we’re not alone. Teaching With Small Boats Alliance (TWSBA) is a grassroots association of 300 or so similarly-minded organizations throughout North America and other pockets of the world who are connected by a nearly eponymous common thread: they all teach with small boats. Building boats, using boats, from coast to coast there is a loosely affiliated family of organizations and schools working in a similar vein to get people of all ages connected with the powerful learning experiences of the sea. In the first week of November (November 3-5), a couple hundred of them are descending on the Northwest Maritime Center (NWMC) to connect, learn, and soak in Port Townsend’s unique maritime character.

“It’s a really unique opportunity to connect with experts in maritime education,” says Jake Beattie, quoting himself in an article he is currently writing. “This conference brings together organizations and schools doing similar work, and the ideas that are generated help shape not just the mission and programs at NWMC, but across the country.”

Attendees are coming from as far as Germany and Buenos Aires bringing their expertise to present in several tracks of programming:

  • Hands-on boatbuilding demonstrations with an eye toward instruction
  • Education methods
  • How to inform maritime education within an anti-racist framework
  • Organizational topics (fundraising, insurance, marketing, etc)

One of the sessions will be a panel discussion about maritime education in the public school system—Big Picture Learning founder Elliot Washor will join speakers from maritime high schools in New York, Cleveland, and Seattle. “There’s plenty of material for everyone from educators to executive directors,” Beattie said in a way that was equal parts self-referential and self-deprecating.

In addition to the conference sessions, there are planned outings to let people explore Port Townsend’s marine trades community. “It’s such a treat to go to Port Townsend; you guys have everything you need to build a boat, and the talent you have there is phenomenal… unparalleled,” said Joe Youcha, Executive Director of the Virginia-based organization Building to Teach.

This year’s conference has an explicit focus on inviting participation from a more diverse set of participants and is offering scholarships for both emerging leaders as well as BIPOC educators. “We really want to make sure that cost isn’t the barrier to making the conference representative of the population as a whole,” said Youcha.

More information on conference topics and scholarships can be found on the TWSBA website. If you’re interested in volunteering at the event and helping us host guest organizations from around the world, please send an email to volunteer@nwmaritime.org.


Header photo by Mark Saran