Dodge Foundation: Boat Building and Theatre in Camden: Spotlight on Two New Grantees

By Richard Simon
The Geraldine R Dodge Foundation Blog

Today we focus on two new Dodge grantees, both doing admirable work in Camden, New Jersey.

The first grantee is UrbanPromise, which has fostered a community of support for the youth of Camden since 1988 through a leading edge development program to equip more than 500 young people and their families with the skills necessary for academic achievement, life management and leadership. In 2009, UrbanPromise created Urban BoatWorks, a wooden boat-building program where students learn problem-solving, critical thinking and vocational skills.

The boats are both real and symbolic in terms of the transformations that are occurring through the building process, and they are astonishingly beautiful. The program is anchored in Camden’s Waterfront South, and the Shipyard & Maritime Museum serves as an oasis in terms of place and space. The program is also more than experiential learning in terms of design, craft, and construction: there is a deeper vision to connect Camden youth to their waterfront, and there is a developing vision of a water trail and active environmental program.

Urban BoatWorks 2

Previously a 6-week boat building program, Urban BoatWorks is now a year-long comprehensive program that incorporates maritime history, swimming lessons, sailing lessons at the Cooper River Yacht Club, and a community launching ceremony. There is also a strong intergenerational mentoring component, as seasoned boat building and sailing enthusiasts from the region lend volunteer support to the program. Urban BoatWorks also hopes to add a new boat building initiative – the Traditional Build – to their two other programs, the Stitch and Glue Program, and the Advanced Stitch and Glue Build.

In addition to creating beautiful boats, Urban Boatworks is generating excitement and motivation for a program that nurtures learning, leading, creative thinking, problem solving, and character development in Camden youth.

Urban BoatWorks 3

Dodge also welcomes the Arden Theatre Company as a new grantee. Founded in 1988, the Arden is an award-winning professional regional theatre that offers the highest quality theatrical productions and educational programs to the artists, audiences and students of Greater Philadelphia.

Arden for All is an educational outreach program providing free tickets, show-related books and classroom visits from Arden Teaching Artists to economically disadvantaged students in Camden. Through this program, Arden has developed a model that combines in-classroom workshops, professional development for teachers and exposure to high quality performances. This allows children to get more from their classroom experience by embracing alternative learning styles, and offers the chance to travel outside their immediate neighborhood for a special experience that is both hopeful and inspiring. There are no other professional theatres in the area that offer this type of opportunity for Camden children and teachers.

Student Sharing Mouse Book

Recently, a delightful production of The Borrowers mesmerized an audience of Camden kids and equally enthralled their teachers. And in a special education classroom, two teaching artists/actors led a class, about which its teacher reported positive growth in her students’ behavior and ability to read, write, and perform in front of an audience of their peers. She also spoke highly of the training she received from the Arden staff which empowered her to incorporate these creative techniques into other coursework.

Dodge is proud to support the work of these two imaginative and creative programs for the children and young adults of Camden.