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Boats and Bridges – An Innovative Educational Competition

Our Perelman Jewish Day School 5th graders recently joined 8th grade students from the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy for the culmination of our 2015-2016 Boats and Bridges Program. The three-session program provides our students the opportunity to experience science and engineering in a unique setting.
At the start of the competition, students are divided into teams and are challenged to create a bridge and a boat, utilizing a single standardized set of materials. Their efforts are compared through specific testing of both their bridge and boat, and through the assessment of a journal that documents their experiences. Along with science related skills, group dynamics, leadership and perseverance play a large role in achieving top performance throughout each of the sessions and in the overall competition.
During the first session, students spent time getting to know the other members of their team, took inventory of the tools and materials in their boxes, and began to work together, brainstorming possible ways to construct their boat and bridge. Each group recorded its ideas in the group’s journal, and debated its pros and cons. The teams were tasked with reaching consensus about which plan to pursue in preparation for the next session. Session two was devoted building their boat and bridge, tweaking their designs as necessary to ensure that they would be ready for competition.
Students enter the third and final session, with excitement as they anticipated the final challenge, determining which boat and bridge could sustain the most weight. 
School administrators, parents, and judges were amazed not only at the variety of designs, but also at their sophistication. One group reflected on their collaboration and defined their strengths and challenges - “Our group worked exceptionally well together. Right from the start, we easily divided into two groups. Every individual did their best to share the work in an efficient manner.”
While all the teams were recognized for their incredible innovation, three were given the distinction of having winning designs. Congratulations to all who participated!