Article: Unsinkable imagination at CRS

Unsinkable imagination at CRS

Two students testing their boat in a tub full of water

First-graders at Chestnut Ridge Elementary School prepared for Thanksgiving by learning about the pilgrims and their ship, the Mayflower. Students wondered what was involved in building a ship that could carry so many people across an ocean. Teacher Jodi Piontkowski challenged her curious class to design and construct a sea-worthy craft from some simple materials: a Styrofoam plate and cup, and a sheet of aluminum foil. Let the fun begin!

Working in teams, students discussed and planned their designs. They began construction, working with scissors, tape and a huge amount of enthusiasm. Ships were tested in large tubs of water; many successfully carried more than 200 “pilgrims” (pennies) before they faced the danger of sinking. Designs were unique: One ship included a small passenger cabin and a mast with a crow’s nest; another resembled a miniature catamaran. 

Students enjoyed the chance to exercise their imagination and creativity. However, there was a very serious learning goal behind the activity. The school’s educators use the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards (, which are recognized world-wide as the accepted standards for learning in the digital age. 

Instructional Technology Specialist Megan Hugg said, “This lesson was designed to align to one of the seven ISTE standards: Innovative Designer. Students are presented with an authentic problem. They use a deliberate design process and digital tools to develop, test and refine prototype solutions. As a result, they build a tolerance to ambiguity and learn to persevere as they work with open-ended problems.”

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