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Houghtaling first-graders take on Vigor
Far left, Houghtaling Elementary School first-graders, Cedric Febrero, left, and Evelyn Robins, right, look around Friday during a field trip to Vigor Alaska. They were able to watch Alaska Marine Highway ferries being worked on. Staff photos by Dustin Safranek

Daily News Staff Writer

They had to hold onto their red hard hats so they wouldn’t blow away in the wind, and they had to climb up four flights of stairs, but the first-graders from Houghtaling Elementary School survived their trip to Vigor Alaska — and learned a bit about shipbuilding along the way.

In between his dramatic heaving, one of the students asked a Vigor employee if the shipyard had a teleporter they could use to skip the stair-climbing and make their lives a whole lot easier.

“We don’t have a teleporter yet,” the worker responded. “Maybe next year.”

Leslie Roussan, Mandy Buckingham and Karen Manabat took their classes on a field trip to the shipyard on Thursday, during which they were given a tour and an introduction to some of the projects they work on. But first, the students were told to put on their safety glasses and hard hats.

“Are we allowed to take these home?” a first-grader asked her teacher.

“No, you do not get to take them home,” Roussan told her.

Sierra Callis, the workforce development and government affairs professional with Vigor, was one of the tour guides for the day. She took the students to the area where Vigor builds “giant LEGO pieces” that Vigor employees “put together to build boats.”

Callis said they’re called modules, and asked the kids if they knew that boats were built with giant LEGO pieces. After finding that out, some of the students were all for it.

“I wanna work here,” one girl exclaimed.

“I think you have to get a little bit taller before you work here,” Callis said to her.

When they arrived at their new location at the pier by the Alaska Marine Highway ferry Malaspina, Callis went on to ask the students if they go to the doctor for check-ups. Most of them raised their hands.

“Did you know that boats go to the doctor for checkups?” she asked them. “So this is the Malaspina. The Malaspina came into us because we’re boat doctors.”

She explained to them that Vigor had to special-order parts for the ferry, but other vessels needed to be worked on, so they moved the boat to the pier and tied it up until they had the time and resources to complete “its yearly checkup.”

Then came the hike to the fourth floor of the assembly hall, where the students were able to watch from windows the AMHS ferry Hubbard being built. Afterwards, they made their way to the entrance of the shipyard and ended the field trip by watching welders preparing pieces for the Hubbard.

Paige Hill, a first-grader, said the field trip was fun because they were able to watch the new vessels being built. While some students wanted to teleport to the fourth floor of the building, Hill said the best part of the day was climbing those stairs.

“I learned that it’s hard to make ferries,” Hill said, adding that she wants to work at Vigor.

During the field trip, Zoey Quick, also a first-grader, became quite a bit more knowledgeable about the ferries that float through Alaska’s water. She said there are numbers on the side of the boat showing how deep the water is — and those numbers go up to 14 feet.

Quick’s favorite part of the field trip was seeing “the big giant boat.”

“That’s the same as me,” Hill added.