grade School teacher discovers a secret weapon
At the Spring
Mills elementary School, Highland, MI. there is a dedicated teacher,
Phil Schmidlin, who spearheaded a special project where he has had
his 5th grade students build real canoes in the classroom for the
last seven years (as of 8/2002, four at the time of this writing).
It proved to
be an exceptional program for his students...working together in
teams with schedules and goals. Participation by every student enabled
them to read plans and feel motivated. They found an opportunity
to apply their knowledge and basic academic skills...math/measurement,
reading and problem solving that they have developed during their
first five years in school
of the project was easy to recognize as he watched students self-confidence
and self-esteem grow. Many of the students became more organized
and self-directed in their approach to learning. The carry over
is evident when students begin to improve in other academic areas.
Relationships among students in the class became more positive and
trusting. Members of class recognize that each person has individual
talents that are unique to that person and situation. PRODUCTIVITY
within the class is up BEHAVIOR and DISRUPTIONS are DOWN! School
is fun and individuals old and young alike learn when they are able
to apply their skills in a supportable setting.
hand tools & plans for the canoes designed by Platt Monfort.
Schmidlin stumbled on to Monfort’s website www.gaboats.com
(formerly www.geodesicairoliteboats.com) and ordered not one but
two different designs! (Sweet Pea and Explorer 14) The boats were
built in the classroom without much disruption to the other activities
in the room. Phil milled the wood parts at home on his table saw,
so the class performed the actual assembly of the boats.
technique is fun and simple utilizing basic skills and ordinary
hand tools. Materials are inexpensive and there is no need for elaborate
forms, lofting, spiling, planking, sanding and fairing epoxy, etc.
associated with other boat building methods. A Geodesic Airolite
boat consists of a simple, lightweight wooden framework, braced
with triangulated Kevlar roving strands. This tough basket-like
frame is then covered with Dacron fabric. This material is similar
to sailcloth, except that it is heat shrunk and provides a beautiful
smooth hull surface with no darts folds or puckers.
gave up recess to work on the canoe...coming to school early and
staying late to get in extra hours. The project has been so successful
some children think that it is more fun than recess! This is the
4th year that Schmidlin has conducted his successful courses, building
two boats per year.. the principle, Pat Parrish, endorses the project
and says "Building canoes is a really nice opportunity for
The Huron Valley
Education foundation grant funded the canoe project..grants were
awarded to projects like Schmidlin’s every June. This facilitated
the added incentive of possible ownership. Going into the project
, the students know that in June, when the boats are completed and
the Dacron is sealed with class-approved colors, Mr. Shmidlin draws
names out of a hat for two pupils, who will take home canoes.