Advanced Placement environmental science teacher Greg Armstrong gave Ham and Hall an assignment to build a wood-stripped canoe for their applied botany class.
“They had to study different types of plants and trees and apply what they learned to a final project,” Armstrong said.
Ham and Hall, along with their fathers, made the canoe using small half-inch-wide strips of cedar, walnut and sassafras.
The boys spent the fall semester building the strongback, which reinforces and stabilizes the boat.
“The boys had the more advanced project than any of their other classmates,” said Jeff Hall, Wil Hall’s father. “We coached them, but the boys did the work.”
“I was rather perplexed on how they were going to complete such a task,” said Bill Ham, Brad Ham’s father. “With the help of a book and a YouTube video, they were able to finish the boat and set sail in time for the seniors’ last day of school. It was like birthing a baby. In nine months, we got one,” Bill Ham said.
As the boys continued to work on the canoe, underclassmen would visit them, and they were able to demonstrate the process of building the canoe.
“We wanted to do something that would last after high school,” Wil Hall said. “It was good experience and great bonding time with our fathers. We appreciated the help.” Ham added, ”The time spent with our dads building this canoe was priceless. This is something that we can keep forever.”
“When they started, it was an ugly-looking structure,” Jeff Hall said. “It looked bad. Their classmates told them it would never float. But they didn’t give up.”
Once the canoe was finished, Jeff Hall branded it with the logo, “Hall & Ham Boat Works.”
“I want anyone who sees the canoe to know that Wil Hall and Brad Ham built this canoe,” Jeff Hall said.
“This was awesome. It was an amazing year but especially those last few weeks building the boat. Building the boat was a life lesson, that after all that labor, you still didn’t know if it was going to float. It was great to see them with a smile on their face. It was a change of a chapter in their life. It was bittersweet. We don’t know where their life is going just like we don’t know where the canoe was going.”
Both Hall and Ham plan to attend the University of Tennessee in the fall and be suitemates.
“They bonded a lot this year, and I hope they will continue this bond as they attend college together in the fall,” Jeff Hall said.