Japanese boats to hit the water at Middlebury College

MIDDLEBURY — The public is invited to the Middlebury College Natatorium on Thursday evening at 6:45 p.m. to see students launch the traditional Japanese boats they have been building this winter.

Following a colorful Shinto ceremony, Middlebury College students will launch two traditional Japanese boats that they have been constructing this month as part of their work for a Winter Term course titled “Building the Japanese Boat.”

In this course, taught by Vergennes boatbuilder Douglas Brooks, students used construction of traditional Japanese boats as a backdrop to explore the cultural underpinnings of apprentice learning. Traditional craft apprenticeships are still very much the norm in Japan, standing in stark contrast to Western notions of teaching and learning.

Exploring how apprenticeship reflects aspects of Buddhist training shined a light on students’ accepted notions of learning.

Brooks, also a writer and researcher, apprenticed with five boatbuilders from throughout Japan.  He has published three books, and his work has been honored by the Japanese Ministry of Culture. Last year he received the American Crafts Council’s Rare Craft Fellowship Award.

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