Ask any PCS upperclassman what the most memorable maritime experience was at Paul Cuffee, and most will agree: designing and building their own model boats in 5th grade. Each class of 5th graders for the past 14 years has worked on this hands-on project.
Students begin their Boat Unit in January, learning about the parts of a boat and their functions. Then, working in teams of three, they design, build, and present 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. The unit incorporates several disciplines; students use math skills to calculate speed and mass and incorporate literary allusions and art in presenting their models.
At this year’s Boat Design Fair, 25 boat judges assembled: veteran sailors, naval architects, harbormasters, and other marine experts. The judges inspected each boat, gave feedback, and listened while the 5th graders explained each step of their building process.
Later, the boats were tested in a classroom water tank. The effects of hull shape, mast height, and other design principles were evident as each boat was tested for buoyancy, stability and speed.
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