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Fifth-graders build, race novel nautical craft

By Sarah Nagem
Salisbury Post

When Mino Panchit, a fifth-grader at Mt. Ulla Elementary, realized her makeshift paddle wasn’t getting her anywhere fast, she had to improvise.
The piece of cardboard she and her teammates had taped to a PVC pipe couldn’t hold up as Panchit made her way across the swimming pool at Catawba College.
“So I just used my hands to paddle,” Panchit said.
The quick thinking paid off. Hers was the first boat among half a dozen or so to reach the end of the pool.

View our multimedia package of this event here.

About 220 fifth-graders in academically and intellectually gifted classes in the Rowan-Salisbury School System took part in a boat-building project Thursday and Friday.
Teams of five to seven students used cardboard, pipes and plastic sheeting to construct boats to float across the pool. One member from each team sat in the boats.
On Friday, some boats sank nearly as soon as they set off. Others, like the boat Panchit’s team made, floated all the way across.
Panchit attributed her team’s success to good teamwork and wise engineering ó although she didn’t say it quite like that.
“The plastic on the bottom is to keep the water away,” she said, referring to the sheet of plastic her team had used to cover the cardboard.
They attached PVC pipes on the bottom to help it float. Then they built sides out of cardboard, making the boat resemble a canoe.
This kind of project is important for gifted students, said Wanda Kluttz, the AIG lead teacher in the school system.
“It allows them to apply everything they’ve been learning,” Kluttz said. “This lets them pull their thinking together.”
The project, called Challenge Day, is an example of project-based learning, which will be used more often in AIG classrooms next school year, she said.
This summer, AIG teachers will undergo training in project-based learning, allowing them to apply new concepts.
Some schools are already thinking outside the box. At Overton Elementary, Kluttz said, AIG students built an amusement park out of toothpicks and created a brochure and a video to go along with it.
These types of projects are about finding out what works and what doesn’t, she said.
“The process if equally, and sometimes more important, than the outcome,” Kluttz told the students Friday after they floated their boats.
Kluttz encouraged them to think about what strategies worked in building their boats and what could have been improved.
Apply all that to new experiences, she told them.
Panchit’s team likely realized cardboard won’t last long in water without plastic over it.
Taylor Shue, a fifth-grader at Enochville Elementary, learned her team was smart to make sure some air stayed in the plastic that covered the cardboard.
The air likely helped it stay afloat, said Shue, who lay on her belly on the boat and kicked her way across the pool.
But lessons of buoyancy aside, Shue said she learned a little something about teamwork. She realized “that you have to work together.”
The teams were made up of students from different schools, so kids didn’t know most of their teammates.
It’s important for students to learn to work with people they’re not familiar with, Kluttz said.
Contact Sarah Nagem at 704-797-7683 or snagem@salisburypost.com.

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