WELLSBORO — Using three sheets of cardboard, a pair of pool noodles, duct tape and some soda bottles, fifth through seventh graders at the Rock L. Butler Middle School here were challenged to create a boat that would carry two passengers across a pool in the shortest amount of time.
The engineering challenge was issued to the students during the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment testing. Principal Rob Kreger said he asked faculty to come up with a project to reward students for their work and keep the school quiet while eighth graders completed PSSA science testing in the afternoon. The Unified Arts faculty suggested holding a cardboard regatta.
Art teacher Heather Ladd said STEM teacher Matt Erway has tinkered with the idea while other teachers suggested an Olympic-style event. Those ideas were combined this past Friday.
Each Unified Arts teacher contributed a new component to the competition: banners, mascot, chants and field games like pool noodle javelin throw, car wash relay, threading the hoop and tug of war.
“Each home room was its own team. Each grade level had a color and the students had to come up with a contrasting color and come up with a chant or cheer,” said Ladd.
Each class crafted a boat for the timed event, and each student built a cereal box boat designed to hold the largest amount of pennies. Pennies from the small boat challenge were donated to Second Chance Animal Sanctuary.
“We gave them some basic information on boats, measurements and that, but lot of it we wanted them to experiment and see what would work,” said Ladd. “It was more like an engineering challenge … more of a self-directed learning experience for them.”
While eighth graders traveled to New York City for the annual field trip, the other classes walked to The Green, with banners and boats and chanting. Students from the Charlotte Lappla and Don Gill elementary schools exchanged high fives with the upperclassmen.
At Packer Park, the competition began; classes earned points for each competitive event. The regatta took place that afternoon.
Each grade launched its boat from one side, boarding the lightest students to paddle to the opposite side. If the boat disintegrated or capsized, it had to be towed to the finish line. Time penalties were enacted for using the side of the pool or other violations. Mary Nance’s sixth grade class crafted the fastest boat, which made it across the pool in one minute, 20 seconds.
“I thought it was very fun and very challenging to make it so it would stay together. It took a lot of time,” said seventh grader Hannah Gilmour, a member of Brigitte Largey’s Little Ludicrous Lions.
Jude Cuneo, a member of Margaret Ball’s fifth grade team, The Pickles, said he enjoyed the challenge of “trying to make sure your boat floats and just trying to make your boat as fast as you can, which is really hard.”
Faculty were supportive of the project and may tweak it for next year, said Ladd.
“There were a lot of engineering type skills used and team work and collaboration and pure joy,” said teacher Margaret Ball. “We’re outside on the only day it didn’t rain in three months and it’s just pure, unadulterated joy.”