Carving into a learning curve: Class gives ‘boarding school’ new meaning

Posted at 7:30 AM, Mar 07, 2017

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- It's boarding school with a twist: a class, designed to grab and keep the attention of students who are slipping through the cracks by having them roll right over cracks in the cement on boards they build.

Not only do kids develop and create the boards, they learn how to ride them.

High school can be a daily balancing act for a lot of students, and this class requires a lot of that. It first got its start at Forest Hills Schools as a cross-curricular between industrial arts and physical education.

"Our kids are getting industrial arts, they’re getting physical education, but they’re also getting a lot of math, engineering, marketing, business, communications and science," Bill Curtis said, the mastermind behind the class.

Scott Kemperman, the Gone Boarding instructor at Forest Hills Northern is challenging students and encouraging them to find their own solutions.

There's no boredom in this class, but a lot of boards. Senior, Ben Bromley is almost done making his. "They say do something you love for the rest of your life," Bromley said. "I could definitely see myself doing this."

For two hours a day, students make skateboards, surfboards, snowboards, wake boards and stand-up paddle boards. Curtis says the class is teaching students 21st Century soft skills. They're engineering in groups and learning time management.

"We want kids to explore on their own," Curtis said. "We won’t always give them the answer. We want them to discover that and fail quite often. We encourage failure; there’s virtually no mistakes in here that can’t be corrected."

Olivia Reilly, a senior, agrees, telling FOX 17 she's not only building boards, but character.

"This applies to my life," Reilly said. It applies to my future. It really opens my eyes to the real world. There are classes where I’m like, 'When do I need to know this?' Then, I come to this class, and I’m like,'I need to know all of this stuff.'"

That's why Curtis is hoping other schools will get on board with the Gone Boarding program, both literally and figuratively.

Curtis says 219 students have already experienced Gone Boarding since it got its start five years ago.

As for all of those boards students are making, they're actually able to take them home at the end of the semester. They just have to reimburse the school for the cost of the materials.