Crowther Memorial Junior High School (CMJHS) participated in its third annual cardboard boat race this year. They did one before the coronavirus hit, one in 2020 and then this one.
Grade 8 teacher Scott Sackett says the idea is for this to continue to happen every year and that it initially started out as part of a competition through Skills Alberta who promotes the trades throughout the province. CMJHS sent students originally to compete and now they hold the event for the grade 8 students locally so everyone can participate.
“One of the science teachers and I Tiffany Callaghan, she's on a mat leave this year, but she and I sent the kids to that first one when we found out about it and then we thought it would be a great experience for all.”
When it comes to projects like these Sackett appreciates how it can motivate the students, “It's a pretty neat day for the kids to actually make something that doesn't need to be graded because they just know if they did a good job based on how the boat performs."
Along with seeing the motivation and drive this project gives the students Sackett appreciates that they are working at CMJHS to create situations for students that will teach them life skills that can be used outside of the classroom.
“I think that's something that we've been trying to do for a bit at our school is give them authentic projects that have real world connections and actually have a purpose in and of themselves.”
The first year that they built the boats, there were quite a few that folded right in half when the pilots got in them, Sackett and the teachers at CMJHS saw the need to change things up a bit for the students to have a better chance at making it across the pool.
“We decided that we want the experience to have more success and decided to make them do two labs a week before so they would understand how to make the boats stronger so that they wouldn’t fold in half quite as easily.”
Sackett shared how he feels experiences like these are important for the students because it's not about the boat necessarily going the full distance but how the kids adapt and work together.
“It's kind of a neat feeling when you have that many kids that are engaged and you look around and they are all just working and thinking and building.”
Sackett has been a teacher for over 20 years and says that it is a rewarding experience to see the kids grow, especially when they are doing projects like this.
“It's pretty fun to just see them gain confidence and gain skills and feel a sense of accomplishment. but you get these moments, and that day is one of them when you're like, oh, yeah, this is why I teach.”
Spending the majority of his career in Strathmore Sackett has enjoyed the small town feel and says that one of the highlights for him has been seeing some kids from the same family come through his class noting that he feels a strong connection to the community.
Mark Leger of Leger Air Vac Systems, also a parent of a former student at CMJHS, stepped up to sponsor the cardboard boat races to provide the students with the materials for the kids to build their boats. Along with Leger Sackett noted that Pro Water in Strathmore also provided boat sponsorship and even sent stickers over for the students to place on their boats prior to the race.
Sackett did say that this project came together with the help of three of the CMJHS science teachers Earl Sorenson, Rachel Cool and Tiffany Callaghan only happens with the full support of the teachers who work with the students to put this on each year.