Keeping Their School Afloat

December 04, 1991 1 min read

Life on “The Last Frontier,” as Alaska is known, can be unforgiving, and children who grow up there rapidly learn how to make a virtue of necessity.

But the students at the Craik Logging School, a floating building that serves a coastal logging company near Ketchikan in southwestern Alaska, recently learned that sometimes virtue can be its own reward.

As part of a science program on recycling, the school’s 13 students were searching for an ecologically sound method to dispose of the non- organic wastes that accumulated in the camp. Their answer was “Eco Logs,” chains of logging-truck tires stuffed with waste plastic that provide excellent flotation.

“The idea came from an article we heard on the shortwave radio about a man in Jamaica who built a seagoing boat [this way],” David M. Greeley, the principal and teacher for the K-12 school, said in an interview over a balky radio-telephone connection. “We said, ‘Hey, that would work here.’”

Mr. Greeley and his students quickly decided that “Eco Logs” would provide a perfect substitute for the old-growth timbers that had been used to buoy up the school as it bobs along in the waters of the Inland Passage, following the logging operations as the timber is harvested.

The concept also was ingenious enough to earn recognition from the regional office of the Environmental Protection Agency as part of the President’s Environmental Awards program.

Though unusual even by Alaskan standards, the school is not unique, according to David Bossett, the assistant superintendent for the Southeast Island School District. The district encompasses 17 rural schools, including two additional floating schools, in a 20,000-square-mile section of the coastal strip.

A version of this article appeared in the December 04, 1991 edition of Education Week as Keeping Their School Afloat