Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep typically aims to immerse young people of limited means into a rigorous college prep environment, but the school also strives to expand its students’ horizons.

That was the case earlier this month, when the school partnered with the Center for Conservation Leadership, Lake Forest Open Lands Association and the Urban Wilderness Program to bring a unique project to the school: building a boat.

Approximately 50 students worked after school for one week to craft a canoe in the style of the Ojibwe Native Americans, who once lived along the Great Lakes. Preston Kendall, CRSM President, described the activity as getting students out of the classroom for a hands-on, nature-based experience: “Our students are city kids, so they don’t often get to connect with nature.”

Julia Lunn, Director of Engagement for the Center for Conservation, said beyond working with their hands and learning about the Ojibwe people, the project involved patience, resilience and teamwork.

“Launching this on some open water, then we’re going to make the connection to the natural world,” Lunn said,” which is ultimately why we’re doing this.”