PCS Fifth Graders Float their Boats in 13th Annual Boat Design Fair

Boat Design Fair 2016

Paul Cuffee 5th graders discussing their boat design process with special guest judges who provided feedback.

Ask any PCS upperclassman or graduate what their most memorable maritime experience was at Paul Cuffee and most will agree: building their boat in 5th grade.

“Other than at the graduate level, I have never seen a maritime program as intense as what I saw at Paul Cuffee School….Thank you for the opportunity to see young boat-builders in action, as well as your dedication to preserving the maritime theme and an emphasis on the ecology of Narragansett Bay and world oceans.”

                                                                    A 2016 Boat Judge

Each year, working in teams of three, 5th graders begin their Boat Unit in January, learning about the parts of a boat and their functions, using math skills to calculate speed and mass, incorporating literary allusions and art in naming and presenting their model boats.

Built from cardboard and waterproofed by tape, the model boats sport masts made of dowels and sails of sailcloth. Each one is designed with buoyancy, stability and speed in mind.

At this year’s Boat Design Fair, 35 boat judges assembled: veteran sailors, naval architects, harbormasters and other marine experts who inspected each boat, gave feedback and listened while the 5th graders explained every step of their building process. Later, the boats were tested in a water tank in the classrooms. The effects of hull shape and mast height and other design principles were evident as each boat was tested for buoyancy, stability and speed.


Average Class Size: 20
Current Enrollment: 820
Students of Color: 96%
Female Students: 51%
Male Students: 49%
Free/Reduced Price Lunch Eligibility: 82%
Multi-Language Learners: 19%
Students Receiving Special Education Services: 13%
Total Employees: 168
BIPOC: 45%
Female Employees: 75%
Male Employees: 25%