Boat Launch Featured at Bartram’s Garden Meeting

Rowboats built by Richard Allen Charter students prove seaworthy

Riverways Coalition members met at Bartram’s Garden May 22 to continue working together to promote safe and fair access of local communities to our Greater Philadelphia waterways.  Nowhere in the city are there more current opportunities and future prospects for river-related activities than here in Southwest.

The gathering last week coincided with what has become an exciting annual event:  The launch and initial voyages of more rowboats built and painted by students at Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School around the corner on Lindbergh Blvd.  The youngsters, members of Ms. Melissa Johnson’s 5th-grade class, started last September from scratch. Soon raw lumber, nails, hammers and saws, and paint and caulk were assembled.  With well-tested plans, a great four-year tradition and Ms. Johnson’s drive and encouragement, the sturdy vessels began to take shape. And last week’s launch was a resounding success… all the boats proved seaworthy – to the satisfaction of school CEO Larry Jones who in true captain’s fashion deposited himself in the first boat.   “We want the community to come into the fullest possible experience of the river, and it starts with the kids.”

The construction and deployment process supports a variety of learning experiences:  careful measurements (math): Knowledge of the Schuylkill and the importance of pure water to our society (environmental science);  the fish and wildlife in and around rivers (nature); plus teamwork and sacrifice all play a part in the studies that accompany the activity.

“In pursuing a sustained project-oriented learning experience, we bring life to science in a way they will never forget,” added the lively and energetic Johnson.  “It stimulates all the senses and produces a real feeling of accomplishment. accompany the project.

“We have to take care of our rivers,” reflected 5th grader Hawa.  “If we pollute the water, it will kill the living creatures the fish feed on and from there all the other wildlife that is dependent on the river.”

Riverways Coalition members were welcomed by Maitreyi Roy, Executive Director of Bartram’s Garden.  Visitors included Andrew Johnson, Director of the Watershed Protection Program at the William Penn Foundation; Erica Freeland, Director of Programs & Collections at Historic Glen Ford on the Delaware  in Torresdale; Michael J. Flynn, Director of Education and Interpretation at the Philadelphia Seaport Museum; and Nicholas Pagon, Joanne Douglas, Carolyn Hesse, Chloe Wang, and Megan Boon Siegl of Philadelphia Waterborne.

Several groups from Camden were also represented including Urban Promise, the Independence Seaport Museum, and the Center for Aquatic Sciences.

Iyana Campbell, the Communication Specialist at Bartram’s Garden, reminded residents that Schuylkill River boating is free on Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at 5400 Lindbergh Boulevard. Kayaks, rowboats, and life preservers are supplied.  Children accompanied by adults are welcome!

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