Alice Smith Elementary students use STEM skills to build canoes

Fifth- and sixth-grade students build two canoes from start to finish as part of their STEM curriculum with the nonprofit organization Urban Boatbuilders.
May 17, 2019

Students at Alice Smith Elementary will be rowing to the last day of school as they spend the month crafting two birchbark canoes. With the help of St. Paul nonprofit Urban Boatbuilders, Alice Smith fifth- and sixth-graders will utilize the Hopkins’ STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) curriculum to build the canoes from start to finish.

Alice Smith teachers Maggie Lund and Mykenna Yesnes have worked with Urban Boatbuilders to align their lessons around literacy standards and topics covered in math, science, and social and emotional learning.

“Our overarching theme for the boats is ‘energy’ and we have broken this down into smaller components,” Lund said.

Over the course of the building process, students will be exposed to six lessons. Through a project-based learning style, they will learn types of energy, transference of energy, uses of energy and energy as it is used by humans. The science and math topics will be intertwined in the lessons and creation process.

The Urban Boatbuilders project ties into the literacy model for fifth- and sixth-grade. Earlier in the year, students experienced project-based learning and inquiry. One of the experiences was based on “The Birchbark House” by Louise Erdrich. Students studied the story of a Native American family and created mini prototype boats.

Lund and Yesnes received a $12,000 grant from the Hopkins Education Foundation in order to implement the project. When the canoes are completed, one will go to HEF to be auctioned off at next year’s foundation gala. The other canoe will be shared between buildings within the district.

Urban Boatbuilders is a nonprofit organization with a mission to empower youth to succeed in work and life through woodworking and experiential learning. Students will wrap up the boat building process by testing the canoes on June 6 at Shady Oak Beach.

Urban Boatbuilders

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