Students from the Children's Guild who sailed the bay and collected litter from the Inner Harbor shoreline throughout this month found a creative outlet for the trash they brought back to their Glen Burnie school: turning it into a sailboat.
The 20 children, who are coping with autism and emotional disorders, converted their stinky collection into a work of art Wednesday, sculpting a sailboat from cardboard, soda bottles and Styrofoam. They decorated its hull with cast-off candy wrappers and snack bags and filled its jib with smiling photos of themselves, taken during their four-week summer course, which showed them their role in protecting the environment.
"Every week, they picked up trash from the shoreline and the next week, they saw more trash," said teacher Serrina Sankey. "It really concerned them and several asked who to call to stop it."
The children came to realize that they also had to stop the flow of trash, Sankey said.
"I felt bad for all the ducks that had to swim in it. And I saw lots of dead fish and crabs. It is not healthy for anybody," said Nicky Johnson, 12.
The children wanted to make a work of art from the trash they collected. "At first we thought of a giant beach ball," art teacher Nichole Sampson said. "But the kids wanted something even bigger. They decided to turn the trash into a sailboat. Their design incorporated all the materials they found."
On Wednesday, Nicky observed "It stinks" as he passed by the crate of retrieved items.
"It's garbage," said Sampson. "What do you expect?"
Teachers helped the children dry out the soggy paper, wash the plastic and bleach the canvas remnant of an American flag. They cut a door into a large cardboard box and installed a tiller, made from an L-shaped piece of Styrofoam. Stacked and glued plastic bottles formed a mast. Nicky made a compass of bottle caps and twisted wire into a wind vane.
"I knew we could make a paper sailboat," said Jacob Campbell, 11, an expert in paper art.
Jacob folded at least 30 pieces of white paper into triangular shapes and taped them together into a sail that nearly matched him in height.
"This sail will work," he said. "It's the same strategy as a paper airplane."
Jacob made sure to leave a few gaps in the mainsail.
"Those are the transparent windows in the sail, so you can see through it," Jacob said.
During their Inner Harbor beachcombing, the children found the scrap of an American flag, likely lost from a boat. Blaine Carson and Monte Austin, both 11, painted the 13 red and white stripes on a ragged-edged paper attached to the flag, which would fly atop the recycled sailboat.
Sailing, everyone's favorite activity, during which they learned to rig a sail and dock a boat, taught the children problem-solving and teamwork and may have shown the class the "bigger picture of this world," said Melissa Deveney, the guild's social worker and the class' sailing instructor.
"They all learned to work together and figure things out," she said. "On the last sail, an 11-year-old docked a 24-foot sailboat."
All that remains is a name for the ship of trash. Given its paper hull and its unlikely-to-float status, Matthew Meneely, 10, suggested Titanic, but his classmates overruled him. Nicky is pushing hard for The 3R's, a reminder to reduce, reuse and recycle.