Finding Balance

New instructor promotes experiential learning…

by: Dave Murray

Patrick “Pat” Owen arrived at GLBBS, like many students, from a tapestry background that blended life experience, art, curiosity, and skill.

“I was a photographer for the Navy but never set foot on a boat,” the 64-year instructor said. He and Rob Freel will be taking over some of the teaching reins beginning in the 2017-18 school year.

“I helped my grandmother restore her farmhouse, constructed cabinets, was a logger, was an instructor at a boat building school in East Port, Maine for one year, and with my wife, Anita, we owned and operated a sailboat building and restoration business, VMG Skiffs, in Frankfort, Michigan.”

“This isn’t just about building boats…”

Patrick, affectionately known as ‘2.0’ as there have been other “Patricks” in lead roles at GLBBS, said the switch from owning a business to teaching was challenging.

“I could stand in front and show them, but that isn’t learning. They need to question, to struggle, to make mistakes, and to use their hands and talents. This isn’t just learning about building boats; this is learning about being a professional, a skilled craftsperson, and about being themselves.”

Owen credited Pat Mahon, the now retired 10-year veteran and lead instructor at GLBBS, with showing him how to teach. “Pat exposed the students to many aspects, and gave them choices for their work. He held their attention with great stories and with the depth of his knowledge. I could just sit in his sessions and listen for hours.”

Looking ahead, Owen sees the development of computer assisted design (CAD) blending with the traditional hands-on wood working skills the school prides itself in. “This will increase accuracy, improve efficiency and productivity, and enhance their craftsmanship,” he said. He also believes to help expand the school’s offerings more work needs to be done with composites and fiberglass along with traditional wood crafting to enhance the students’ boat building skills and flexibility, their marketability, and following the trends of the competitive boat market. “We need to balance what we teach with what we produce.”

“I really enjoy the contact with people here,” he said about his new role. “I feel part of a team. I have the opportunity to learn and to share what I know. There is such a wonderful mix of men and women who’ve been in the world or in business or retired along with younger people just out of high school who have no practical experience. I’ve learned to care for each individual, work with their strengths and goals and desires, and invite them to learn for themselves.”

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What People Say

Thank you so much for doing such a beautiful job on the
Marilyn Jean. Everyone loves her!

Wayne B., Commissioned Boat Client July 14, 2017

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