In December of 2021, our Discovery Boatbuilding Program celebrated a historic milestone after more than 20 years: we hired a second educator. This new member of the team will not only bring a fresh perspective, but they will also allow Kurt Spiridakis, Director of Watercraft and Traditional Skills, to expand his focus on the museum’s extensive watercraft collection while continuing to oversee the Discovery Boatbuilding Program. Join us in welcoming Luke Small, our new Boatbuilding Educator!
Luke is not only a fourth-generation educator toting 15 years of experience, they recently graduated from the Carpenter’s Boat Shop, a four-month live-in boatbuilding apprenticeship in Bristol. Previously, they also helped start a nonprofit that facilitated backpacking trips for the LGBTQ community.
When asked what drew them to Maine, Luke said, “I grew up spending my summers on the Cape and in Maine, and fell in love with the state way before I lived here. Now that I’m here and I get to stare at the Kennebec River every day and build boats, it’s truly remarkable.”
“Kurt has done an amazing job developing this curriculum to use boatbuilding as a tool to teach non boatbuilding skills, whether that’s communication or teamwork or just basic sharing,” Luke said of their first few months here. The program also emphasizes each student’s personal growth, teamwork, leadership, responsibility, and problem-solving, in addition to safe work practices to ensure student safety. “We’re also normalizing trades for young folks and I think that too is really important.”
Early on, Luke noticed this experience is potentially even more impactful for our students’ connection to their heritage. “We’re in the middle of the state and the schools we work with are in coastal towns,” Luke said. “Many of our students’ families work in the fishing industries, but they haven’t yet considered how those boats got there or how they were made.”
Luke is really happy to be working with students again. “The excitement that the kids have is so energizing; they are all so engaged in what we’re doing — I’ve worked with middle schoolers before, but not in this realm. It’s so fun to be excited about a thing that I can teach younger folks who are as excited as I am.”
Outside of their work at the Boatshop, Luke lives in South Portland with their partner and a 10-year-old puppy named Tucker, and enjoys playing cribbage.