WILKES-BARRE — Some sailed, and some sank.
About 90 geometry students from Wilkes-Barre Area’s Coughlin and Meyers high schools gathered at Kistler Elementary School’s pool to test cardboard canoes they made.
Students made their canoes in teams, using cardboard, duct tape, wrapping paper and ingenuity.
A healthy dose of math was also used. Each team had to determine where the waterline would be on their craft. Each canoe was timed for how long it managed to stay afloat. One or two students from each team rode in the canoe to test its buoyancy.
Sam Elias, a math teacher at Meyers, created the project almost 20 years ago. He was inspired by two projects that he had to do in college — a national concrete canoe competition and a physics lab that involved creating car ramps out of cardboard boxes.
“I thought if it (cardboard) could hold a car, we should be able to figure out a way to get kids to float in these things,” Elias said.
Jeremy Bergold, a 14-year-old freshman at Meyers, made it look easy. He made his long vessel with his partner, Billy Norton, a 15-year-old freshman at Meyers. His peers cheered him on as he rowed across the pool with ease.
“It was very good actually,” Bergold said of his canoe’s maiden voyage. “I thought I was going to be a little bit more off balance, but I was pretty balanced.”
Jenifer Kemmerer, a math teacher at Coughlin, heard of the project about three years ago. She said she always liked incorporating hands-on projects, so she decided to include her students.
“I was always interested in sort of getting kids interested in math in a different way,” Kemmerer said. She added that the project gives students the opportunity to “use the math we learn in the classroom outside of the classroom.”
Brittany Delcastillo, a 15-year-old sophomore at Meyers, came dangerously close to swimming away from her canoe. Both ends of her boat raised out of the water and caused the sides to dip. Delcastillo said she had to struggle to maintain balance but was able to row across the pool.
Ryan Gustinucci and Thomas McKenna, both 15-year-old freshmen at Coughlin, were not quite as lucky with their canoe.
They took to the pool together in their boat, and the sides dipped dangerously into the water. The crowd of excited students cheered in as the pair managed to correct their craft’s list and continue on. But, with one more tilt about three quarters of the way across the pool, their box took on water and sank.
“It was fun, but we got a little wet,” Gustinucci said.
Elias and Kemmerer are both required to do a unit on volume and surface area in their classes. Elias said the students had a lot of math to do to determine waterlines and buoyancy. They will also have a 10- to 20-page paper to do as part of the project.
The project is popular among students, Elias said. One of his students from about 15 years ago recently visited. Elias said his former pupil could still rattle off calculations he learned from the project.
Targeting students’ interests with a topic like geometry was a way to get them more interested in the subject.
“This is what kids remember, whenever they connect it (math) to something,” he said.