K12 Education Professional Learning Community Blog

Building a boat to learn physics and algebra? The students at Eagle Rock have been pushing the limits of project based learning in order to stretch their minds and put their learning to use on some pretty big projects.

“At times it can look like the building is taking a lot of class time. But you have to remember that that is where the real learning is happening,” noted Math Instructional Specialist, Karen Ikegami. The actual construction of the canoes only scratched the surface of what the students learned. The canoes acted as a vehicle for complex lessons about density, velocity, scale models, chemistry, teamwork, individual perseverance and the history of boats.

In addition to constructing the boats, students worked in the science lab to uncover and understand other aspects of boats answering questions such as: What makes a boat float? What is the chemistry of epoxy? How much does a boat cost to build? What role have boats played in various cultures?

Students learned just as much from their accomplishments as they did from their mistakes and at the end of the course, the two cedar strip canoes were sold to benefit the Eagle Rock School Higher Education Fund.

Ikegami explains the philosophy behind the course design, “Our goal, as a math department, is to help students see that numbers and math really are a part of every day life.” Upcoming courses include Feeling Lucky?, a course that explores gaming and decision making through probability, Math4Life, a look at the linear and non-linear relationships of money and personal finance, and Entrepreneurship, using algebra to help plan and start a business.