It’s not every day that a U.S. high school's class project ends up washing ashore in Scotland.
But that is, in fact, what happened to a 4-foot drifter boat that students at a Maine high school launched in December.
The boat landed on an island in Scotland last week, exactly 168 days and 12 hours after it was launched by students at Kennebunk High School’s Alternative Education program.
Not surprisingly, it is named the “Little Boat That Could.”
The boat was equipped with a GPS that enabled students and their teacher to track its movements. It also had a camera and sensors – designed by the KHS students -- for wind speed, according to the Bangor Daily News.
Currents pushed the boat northeast toward Spain, then west past Ireland – wherethe KHS students originally had envisioned it ending up -- and onto Scotland’s Western Isles, the Daily News reported.
This boat went completely against what it was supposed to do...and then all of a sudden it ended up where it was supposed to go.
United Kingdom officials retrieved the boat and delivered it to a school teacher in Scotland who will ensure it gets any repairs it needs before being sent on its way for another adventure. Plans call for the boat to be launched from Scotland and end up in South America, the newspaper said. The Scottish students plan to send data chips to their American counterparts for analysis.
“It’s super exciting,” Leia Lowery, director of education at the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust -- which took part in the project with KHS students – was quoted as saying in the newspaper. “We kind of felt like it was sort of an epic journey for them in that all of it was so metaphorically perfect. This boat went completely against what it was supposed to do … and then all of a sudden it ended up where it was supposed to go.”
Lowery said she would like to see KHS and Scotland students speak via video and go over steps for repairing the boat.
Lowery noted that the experience of tracking the boat teaches students about the ocean and how people have an effect on it.
"As we’re doing this we’re talking about some of those things, like how our trash follows the currents as well and we have entire microplastic trash areas in our oceans,” she said. “We’re trying to teach them a little bit about that.”
Some students at Kennebunk High School were skeptical about its odds of making it as far as it did, said Alternative Education Teacher Ed Sharood.
"There were a couple that said, ‘There’s no way this things going to make it, it’ll be eaten by a whale or hit by a ship and sink,” Sharood told the newspaper. “I sent out texts to all of them and got responses like, ‘No way, I can’t believe it,’ or ‘Are you serious?’”
The alternative education program serves students with an individualized teaching style.
Some students said projects such as the one involving the boat prompted them to consider certain careers. Kristen Cofferen, a junior, said the alternative education program’s more creative approach to learning kept her from quitting school.
Lowery, meanwhile, sees a connection between the boat’s journey and the students.
"(The boat is) just like them in that they end up where they’re supposed to be and sometimes they just take a different route,” Lowery said, adding that the boat project “really kind of [showed] the kids that they can be part of something a lot bigger than themselves. That even just building just a little boat in Kennebunk can have this reach.”