I am a 6th grade teacher, my school
does project-based learning
several times a year, and some colleagues and I are now starting a week long project
about boats. We are studying some basic scientific principles and building model boats out of two-ply craft cardboard, hot gluing them together and varnishing them until very waterproof. The prototypes I made look good, float well and seem quite sturdy. They can be from six inches to a foot and a half long. They have a weighted keel
and a wooden dowel mast
with wire stays and tyvek sails
(the hard-to-tear stuff they make priority mail envelopes out of). Best of all they can take almost any (monohull) shape you can cut out. With forty kids
making two each, the cost is working out to about $1 per boat.
For lack of venue and time, the kids
will not really be 'sailing' their boats, but rather testing them on different aspects of displacement
, cargo and balance, as well as for artistic and historically authentic qualities. But all this boat-building has got me thinking....
What if, as a fun extension to the project
, we build a top-of-the-line 1-foot cardboard boat with a nice long keel
filled with quarters? We rig it with twin tyvek headsails on little whisker poles. We fill it with letters from the kids to various countries on the distant shores of the Atlantic. I go out to the jetty on Breezy Point, NYC
, some days after the project is finished and when the wind
is blowing out of the Northwest. And I cast her off.
What are the chances the boat will actually get somewhere far away? 1%? 10%? It will be self righting, more or less self steering
(dead downwind), and small enough to avoid any major stresses on the hull
. I could even put a layer of epoxy
instead of varnish
for longevity. Will it be eaten by curious sharks? Or eventually stove by an open ocean wave? Or will it wash up in Portugal
in a few months?
In Penobscot Bay, Maine
, my crew and I found an actual message in a bottle last summer, sent by a 13 year old kid from New Hampshire. It had floated for two months in a plastic gatorade bottle. The kid was ecstatic when we texted him as he had requested. Now I'm thinking it would be fun to try the same thing, but give the bottle some legs.