Ever since an East Grand Rapids Schools Foundation grant in the fall of 2018 brought the Gone Boarding program to the high school, the class has been an enormous success.
Art teacher Terry Szpieg wrote the initial grant request to start the class, in which students design and build their own skateboards, surfboards, standup paddleboards and snowboards using STEM and Career and Technical Education skills. The class sounded like a great, innovative idea, but nobody knew if enough kids would be interested in it to make it worthwhile. So when students were first able to sign up for Gone Boarding, and 157 students said they wanted to take the class, Szpieg knew he had a hit on his hands.
Now three years after that initial grant, the Foundation has approved a new grant to double the number of students who can participate in Gone Boarding. “This class is so much fun,” Szpieg says. “It’s new. It’s different. It’s exciting!”
With the new grant, Szpieg will be able to share that excitement with twice as many students.
“The Gone Boarding program continues to provide exciting opportunities,” he says. “The experiences that come with the class are unlike anything else the district offers, which I imagine is probably a good part of the level of interest I keep seeing, and its continued growth.”
“Part of the reason the class continues to be successful is because it’s a synthesis of real-world, hands-on application of fundamental skills using a variety of different tools, materials and processes, as well as bringing an idea from a concept into reality,” Szpieg continues.
“I also think that the class provides a nice break from some of the rigors of the typical EGRHS student’s academic schedule. I do squeeze a good amount of core academia into the course, but it’s well disguised. We write, design, do geometry, engineer forms, prototype, create molds, and learn about platform technology, to name a few core-related topics. Not to mention all of the communication and Visual Arts that I incorporate.”
Szpieg says the success of the course has made another powerful positive difference in the lives of its students. “The new grant that I wrote will enable us to offer two sections of the course (one each semester), allowing us to carry our momentum, and offer this experience to twice as many kids after this year,” he says.
“Gone Boarding has the potential to attract students who may be considered ‘at risk.’ This class is designed to generate excitement for the kids who may typically not be engaged in school, are simply moving through the system, and have found limited success from the traditional approach to teaching and learning. Our hope is that this program continues to be a breath of fresh air for some students who never got excited about school before.”