Learning Ships -

Exciting, practical ways of engaging young people and families with their region’s maritime heritage and cultural landscape.

  • Bristol which has the highest tidal reach of any city in the world and a rich tradition of ship building and shipping.
  • Sunderland built more ships than anyother city
  • Hull had the largest whaling fleets
  • Stockton on Tees is cut off from the tides by a barrage and white water canoe centre on the site of its ship yards

There is a disconnection for many young people in these maritime cities from their heritage.

Through this programme young people from 5 to 18 can experience their city or town's maritime heritage, visit exciting locations and work in teams with business volunteers to complete practical challenges.

The programme is also designed to inspire young people to think about their future, whether it is finding about careers or believing in their passions by meeting people who support them through fun learning activities.

Celebrate 50 Years since SS Great Britain returned to Bristol.

Build and decorate a model of the SS Great Britain

Send us pictures - best build and decorated gets a prize

Models are one metre long. No glue is needed. 

Your ship will sail

As soon as its safe we will run an event in the harbour to race your ship

How to take part

Contact us to get your kit - £20 (plus delivery) per kit. £35 (plus delivery) for two kits.


or use paypal- on our construction kits site


Learning Ships workshops, explore themes such as:

  • Maritime history and future
  • Cultural heritage
  • Tides and tidal landscapes
  • Meeting people from a wide range of job roles in different industry sectors 
  • Teamwork
  • Skills needed for success and happiness in work and life
  • Construction skills
Workshops are aviable for all
ages 5 to 18
The construction kits are avaialble for purchase. 
During the Covid 19 crisis we will be posting short instructional videos on how to build the kits and talks with maritime industry professionals




Key Stage 1

Young Shipwrights (5-6 year olds). Land Yachts.

Exploration, discovery, transport,  journeys and collaboration.

Creation of small wind-powered land-yachts. Pairs of children work together to make a yacht and then collaborate with others to combine hulls into a catamaran that can go faster and further.

What happens?

  1. Volunteers meet the children - icebreakers
  2. Boats, ships and ideas to do with travel, exploration and trade are illustrated/performed
  3. Suspend disbelief - the floor (school hall or other venue) is the Atlantic ocean. To islands are set up. We are in Ideas Town in Clever Land. On the other side is  'New Found Land'.
  4. Challenge is set to build a boat capable of crossing the floor
  5. A bank of Dyson Air Multipliers generate wind and we demonstrate ways of converting wind into power to move objects
  6. Resources are handed out and the challenge to build the best boat begins with different options for sail size and shape.
  7. Single hull boats are tested
  8. Collaborations lead to ideas that combine the combine hulls and increase sail size
  9. Boats start to evolve and reach further and further until teams reach 'New Found Land'
  10. Discussions about being bold, collaborating and taking risks that relate to attitudes to life and learning create an effective round up to the session along with affirming the subject curriculum objectives.

    see more on our BLOG

Cost - Through sponsorship from industry partners we aim to provide a half day workshop for 30 young people for £350 or less. (Full cost £575). Two workshops on same day (60 young people) £1000


Key Stage 2

Young Shipwrights (7-11 year olds and Community Groups ). Model Boat Racing

Construction , engineering, teamwork, transition, world of work and aspirations 

What happens?

In Bristol workshop are held in the Engine Shed, Enterprise Zone Business Hub and they include Bristol Packet Boat tour and visit to Underfall Yard. Similar experiences can be created for other towns and cities usually using a museum or maritime heritage centre.

  1. Pupils meet volunteers from business and industry. Creating the volunteers as a 'Top-Trump Card' for the My Future My Choice card game
  2. Learning expeditions by boat and/or foot around maritime industry/heritage settings
  3. Working in teams with volunteers from industry a model of an iconic reguonal boat is built
  4. Boats are decorated with children's aspirations for the future and their learning about soft and hard skills needed for success and happiness
  5. Baots can be used toillustrate the learning about a subject curriculm topis. Eg: Tides, Trade, Slavery.
  6. Boats can be stored by us or taken away for further decoration and display in schools or at community centres,  museums or art galleries
  7. Boats are collected for sailing. (Bristol Harbour Festival Young Shipwrights Annual Boat Race is towards end of July/end of Summer Term)
  8. Winning boat awarded prizes - usually a 100 boats  in a race = cheque for £100 to the winning team (usually made out to a school if its a school team)

Workshops held in schoolsor at community centres

Along with the range of industry volunteers. We bring in a maritime experience covering navigation, voyages of discovery, trade and the future of shipping. Where possible RNLI, Coastguardwill  bring inshore rescue vessels. The Royal Navy are often willing collaborators and we facilitate all the volunteers and contributors for the event. RNLI and Navy will often add challenges of their own to the day.

The Young Shipwrights project has reached over 16,000 young people in the last nine years

see more on our BLOG

Cost - Through sponsorship from industry partners we aim to provide a day workshop for 30 young people for £375 or less. (The actual cost without sponsorship is £1500.  Some activities and courses are free due to the generosity of our funders. (Please be aware business funding is not always available)




'Shipping2050' Key Stage 3, Key Stage 4 and Post 16

Construction, maritime engineering and architecture, propulsion, careers, presentation and teamwork 

Workshops held in schools and on ships. In Bristol we use our classroom afloat the MV Balmoral, a large passenger vessel moored outside M Shed in Bristol's Floating Harbour 

  1. Students work in small teams with an engineer, marine architect, shipwright or sailor.
  2. Rotating through illustrated interactive short talks about aspects of shipping
  3. Exploring the ship to gather building instructions and parts to build a half model of a ship
  4. Discussion and  of the issues facing shippingindustry and the possible solutions
  5. Presentaionsby industry sector experts of the issues and solutions facing global shipping
  6. Teams amend and annotate their model to create a design for a concept ship fit for the future
  7. Students end the day by presenting their ideas and model.
  8. Follow upwork in school with industry partners
  9. In Bristol the final designs for concept ships are exhibited on board the MV Balmoral as part of the Bristol Harbour Festival with an awards evening for families, with judges from the maritime industry.

See more on our BLOG

Cost - Through sponsorship from industry partners and trusts we  provide a day workshop for 30 young people for £400 or less. Normal cost is £1500


Build a Boat 16 to 23 year olds

Construction, engineering, materials, teamwork 

Schools and businesses work together to build a boat. Suits post 16 students working with a businesses

 A practical activity that motivates and inspires business staff as well as the school students.


What happens?

  1. Contact us - (see foot of page) - to make an enquiry or a plan
  2. We bring schools, businesses and a boat builder together. We negotiate costs with both parties and where possible use business connections to reduce costs of materials or cutting out of parts.
  3. The project runs one day a week for 6 or 8 weeks. Space for this is more likely to be available in a school than a business but the business can host the students if that suits.
  4. Boats are launched and used. The ownership/ storage of the boat can be with the school or the business but all can access the boat to enjoy it.  

Costs - these vary depending on the boa(s) being built. Please make an enquiry to discuss.

Learning Outcomes:

Team work

Understanding jobs and opportunities

Raised aspirations

Communication and presentation skills

Practical building and construction skills

Deeper understanding of specific periods of maritime history/trade and exploration.