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Boat-Building Launches Common Reading Initiative 2014


Boat-Building Launches Common Reading Initiative 2014

Students and other community members are immersed in activities linked to the book A Pearl in the Storm.


Why are first-year students at Johnson State College building three seaworthy, wooden boats on their land-locked campus in central Vermont?

It’s all part of a semester-long program for incoming students built around this year’s common book, A Pearl in the Storm, which chronicles author Toni Murden McClure’s attempts to become the first woman to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

The final two of three daylong boat-building sessions take place the next two Fridays, Sept. 12 and 19, under a tent on the campus quad. The students are building three 15-foot Black Rock Skimmers from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a lunch break from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., under the guidance of Richard Butz and Don Dewees of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.

Margo Warden, director of JSC’s Office of First-Year Experience, explains the project this way: “It’s not just about building boats, it’s about building connections, making friends and building community.”

Johnson State has scheduled a number of other events and programs during throughout the academic year as part of its annual Common Reading Initiative:

  • JSC Rowing Regatta, ongoing through Sept. 20: In McClure’s first month at sea, she rowed approximately 1,350 miles. JSC students, faculty and staff are using Concept2 rowing machines in an attempt to collectively row the same distance by Sept. 20.

  • Author Talk and Book Signing, 8 p.m., Sept. 24, Dibden Center for the Arts: Tori Murden McClure will discuss her life and her solo, 3,600-mile journey in a rowboat across the Atlantic.

  • Gallery Talk: Art and Science in Chris Jordan’s Work, 3 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 16, Julian Scott Gallery: The artist’s provocative photographs, on exhibit Sept. 29-Oct. 25, display the detritus of our mass consumption as found in the stomachs of thousands of dead baby albatrosses on Midway Atoll, a cluster of islands 2,000 miles from the nearest continent. This will be a presentation and discussion of this body of work the Seattle-based artist, who has been called “the ‘it’ artist of the green movement.”

  • Screening of MaidenTrip, 6 p.m., Nov. 10, Bentley 207: MaidenTrip follows 16-year-old Laura Dekker, a Dutch schoolgirl, as she becomes the youngest person to sail solo around the world. The film depicts how Laura charts her course, fights the elements and manages being alone for days at a time. But, like McClure’s journey in A Pearl in the Storm, Dekker’s is equally an internal journey of personal growth and awareness.

  • Female Athletes from Vermont, March 2015: Vermont is home to a large number of extreme athletes and adventurers. A panel discussion with some of Vermont’s finest female athletes will explore what it means to be both a competitor/explorer and a woman, including the many roles women play (wife, mother, caretaker, provider) and the societal expectations that accompany them. Time, date and location to be announced.

  • Willey Library Display: On her trip, McClure stowed away 10 pounds of books in her tiny “cabin.” Check out the display in the Willey Library and Learning Center to view the titles that inspired and carried her through three months alone at sea.

  • Exhibit: Images of Tori’s Journey: Photographs from McClure’s crossing of the Atlantic are on display across from the Office of First-Year Experience in Dewey Hall. Stop by for an incredible visual guide of