Governor Morehead School for the Blind students test their boat at Raleigh’s Pullen Park

kcharles@newsobserver.comJune 3, 2014 

— Nine boys at The Governor Morehead School for the Blind were ecstatic Tuesday to walk across the street to Pullen Park’s pond to finally sail Andromeda – a boat 9 months in the making.

“I’m excited, but I don’t think that it’s going to float,” said Jacob Green, 12. “I think it’s too heavy, but if it does, I’ll be really happy.”

Since mid-September, the boys in Cottage B-2 have been planning and building the boat but never expected it to sail.

The boat was made of wood and tape and was painted white and red, with the name Andromeda in black on the starboard bow. The name was also in braille, as were labels on top of the boat that tell the boys what part of it they are touching.

“We were just having fun, so after we got the bottoms and sides in, there was a debate about whether or not it would float,” said Jeanette Sullivan, the residential life trainer for Cottage B-2. “It was only two weeks ago that we asked if it was possible to sail the boat in the pond.”

After getting the OK, the boys were more than eager to find out if their project would really float.

In the mid-80s heat, school employee Tereeke Hutcheson wheeled Andromeda, named after a Greek goddess, to the park on a red wagon, as the boys followed behind. Adults assisted some of the boys, while others used white canes.

With some help, the boys got Andromeda in the water.

“I can feel the water,” Green yelled to Sullivan.

Andromeda floated. One of the park employees pulled it by its string across the platform, before deciding to get into a paddleboat to tow it to the middle of the pond.

“Is it still floating?” one boy asked.

The slightest wind to the sail pulled the boat in the opposite direction of the paddleboat, making it a challenge for the park employee to direct it.

Once each boy had a chance on the platform with the boat, life jackets were removed and Andromeda was put back into the wagon for the trip back to school.

Lots of research

The school has a residential campus that houses an average of 50 students a year. The students live at the school from Sunday afternoon until Friday afternoon. They are assigned to cottages by gender and age.

All of the students attending the school are blind or visually impaired.

The school helps its students learn how to live in a real-world environment by teaching them basic skills. Each cottage has a residential life trainer, who coordinates after-school activities.

Sullivan decided to allow the boys to build a boat instead of a plane. The hands-on project incorporated math and science skills.

“They measured how big the boat was going to be and measured the wood pieces,” said Laura Wooten, student life director. “They used science skills to learn how boats run and operate while relating it to the real world.”

Before the fun of building the boat began, the boys had to do a lot of research.

“They started out trying to get the concept together and did some research on the Internet about different kinds of boats and what they were used for,” said Wooten. “That’s how they decided on a sailboat.”

This isn’t the first time the boys in B-2 have had their after-school work come alive. Last year, the boys built a robot out of newspapers, aluminum foil and paper towel holders.

“The robot was a lot of fun,” said Green. “It looked like a real person but had a square head like ‘SpongeBob.’”

The boat will be placed in the student center next to the robot.

“This was kind of another adventure for them,” said Wooten. “Last year, it was robots, this year a boat. Who knows what’s next?”

Charles: 919-829-4864

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