Fourth Graders Build and Test Rafts in Wissahickon Creek Adventure

Fourth Graders Build and Test Rafts in Wissahickon Creek Adventure

Fourth graders transformed English and science lessons into real-world adventure this week! Inspired by Gary Paulsen's classic novel, Hatchet, these young engineers spent weeks designing, building, and finally testing their own miniature wooden rafts in the flowing waters of Wissahickon Creek.

In Hatchet, a teen survives a plane crash and, armed only with a hatchet, perseveres through many challenges in the wilderness, including building a raft. After reading the book as part of their Wit & Wisdom curriculum, teams constructed rafts in Marianne Maloy’s science class and under the guidance of Independent School Teaching Fellow David Burgess. The rafts, Burgess noted, were no easy feat, requiring trial and error to achieve buoyancy. Like the protagonist in their book, teams problem-solved, switching out one kind of twine for another and searching for just the right kind of sticks for the best design for “survival.” All the while, they were learning about buoyancy and density through hands-on, practical experiments.

“It’s incredible to have this resource in our own backyard for our students to learn firsthand about the natural world around them. It lends itself to such a rich opportunity for learning and adventure” says Maloy. 

On launching day this week, they secured their rafts to long pieces of twine and pushed them out into the water. When they did, cheering could be heard throughout the Wissahickon: “It worked” “We did it!” and “I thought it might sink!” They then pulled them back in, placing one rock on each corner for more testing and observing. They then tested their limits, hypothesizing how many rocks would sink their boats.

When the day was done, they were glad to know that their rafts would be reused in the Naturescape, a spot near the school for recess play. As 4th graders moving up to the Middle School, they would leave their mark, and others would be able to build with their created objects far into the future. 

Raft Launch Fourth Grade Girls Wissahickon


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