An Inside Look at The Compass Project

The Compass Project, a boat building course at Biddeford High School allows students to learn new life skills.


Grace Laverriere and Taylor Wildes

While navigating the construction of a boat for the past five months, the Compass Project program is certainly making waves at Biddeford High.

The Compass Project, a boat building program available at Biddeford High School, allows students to build a boat throughout a semester. The class is led by the project’s lead instructor Bruce Davis.

“Compass Project has been around for about 20 years, it started in Portland and moved to Biddeford three years ago,” said Davis. “They’ll [the students] come in once or twice a week usually and they build a boat together.”

Although many of the students who enter this course have little to no experience in building a boat, the course still dives right into the process at the beginning of the semester.

“The first day, they’re in here they’re using tools, developing some skills, while working on various projects and within a week they’re starting to work on the boat,” Davis said.

The actual process of building the boat takes almost the whole semester to complete. Students are also able to do partake in projects aside from building the boat.

“Along the way, they’ve built a pair of oars as well,” said Davis. “It’s hard to keep eight kids busy working on one boat. They do some individual projects as well.”

One boat was done differently this year. It has a shark spray painted by graffiti artist Peter Anthony at the bow, contradictory to the solid colored boats of the past.

“My nephew Memphis [got me into the project],” said Anthony. “He knows I’m the raddest spray painter in the world. [Then] he asked me to do this.”  

Anthony has been spray painting since 1991. He started as a rebellious graffiti artist, but then realized his talent from onlookers.

“After a while, people who were literally getting me in trouble would say ‘hey, you’re really talented, you should do this for a service’. Over the years I’ve just found some great spots to do it [paint],” Anthony said.

He is very passionate about his craft, but not in the typical sense.

“I try to do projects for no cost. [That way] there’s no confusion between how much you’re worth,” said Anthony. “You’ve gotta enjoy what you’re doing and I really enjoy this.”  

Not only does the class teach students new life skills, it also allows them to escape from a normal school day.

“It [the class] is nice since I actually get to do hands on stuff instead of just sitting in there [a class] doing work on paper,” sophomore Dominic Cortez said.

Students are able to enjoy their creations as well as donating them to a better cause.

“We’re launching the boats we’ve built this year [this week] so the students will get to see the fruits of their labor as far as getting to try it and enjoy it,” said Davis. “We’re in a partnership with Habitat for Humanity and the boat will be in there [the supply store in Kennebunk] all summer being auctioned off.”

The Compass Project program allows students to try new things and it can even become a family affair.

“I’ve always worked construction with my Dad, that has always been something that I am good at,” said sophomore Memphis Berry. “[I enjoyed] the experience [the class] itself and getting to bring my family in rather than just sitting in a class all day.”

The Compass Project at Biddeford High School gives students a physical testament to their learning.

“It [seeing the finished boat] feels good since I actually put work into something instead of just a piece paper that I can’t show work for,” Cortez said.