Updated: Dec 10, 2021
Photo by Lynne Deliman
Montour Elementary school students demonstrate what they learned about shipbuilding to Navy Adm. Thomas J. Anderson during a Nov. 17 visit to promote the construction of the USS Pittsburgh.
By Jamie Wiggan
Montour elementary students caught a glimpse of the seafaring life during a recent visit from U.S. Navy Admiral Thomas J. Anderson, who mixed with children at an after school science program.
Anderson came to the school district Nov. 17 while touring the region to promote the soon-to-begin construction of the USS Pittsburgh.
“Of course when we build a ship and the namesake is a city, we want to build a bond with that city,” he said.
Before learning about the 25,000-ton amphibious vessel designed to transport 800 Marine Corps members plus supplies, the children experimented with buoyancy on a smaller scale by seeing how many Lego blocks they could keep afloat on tin foil-crafted vessels. The exercise was part of a regularly-scheduled STEM (science, technology and math) program emphasis within the YMCA’s weekly programming at the district.
The YMCA operates before and after school programming five days a week, with a STEM emphasis on Wednesdays.
Anderson said when recruiting new members, the U.S. Navy is always looking for candidates with science and technology skills, and he heralded the Pittsburgh area for its shipbuilding contributions that flow out of its technical and engineering culture.
“I think one of the reasons so many ships have been named after Pittsburgh is because of the industrial contributions of this area,” he said.
The recently-commissioned USS Pittsburgh will be the sixth naval vessel to bear the name, beginning with a Civil War-era gunboat built in 1861. The most recent USS Pittsburgh was a nuclear-powered submarine constructed during the Cold War and decommissioned in April 2020.
Two days before his visit to Montour, Anderson met with local dignitaries at a gathering hosted by Controller Michael Lamb’s office, where city officials designated Nov. 15 as “Navy Day” in Pittsburgh.
Anticipating Anderson’s visit, Lamb’s communications director, Rachael Heisler, wanted to ensure the admiral also spent time with the region’s youth before leaving town.
“When I heard he was coming, I wanted to find out how I could get Admiral Anderson to meet some of the children,” said Heisler, who’s also on the board of Allegheny County’s YMCA division.
The students were also prepared for the visit.
Learning one room in the vessel would be dedicated to all things Pittsburgh, they made their own suggestions for what it should contain. According to Annamarie Casciato, YMCA’s Montour site coordinator, these ranged from Kennywood Amusement Park to the world’s largest rubber duck that famously graced the three rivers in 2013, and beloved foodstuffs like pierogies and pickles.
Some students also expressed their gratitude to the service shown by Anderson and his colleagues through letters they read aloud to him.
“You sacrifice your lives just for people you don’t know, you always will keep our country safe,” said elementary student Arnav Joshi.
“Also, you will not give up in hard situations, you will not let anything affect us.”