Champion students ride wave to success

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The Junior High Division winners from Champion School with trophy, left to right: Hayden Meadows, Elmore Bueckert, Arianna Groves, Dana Beagle.

It may be small in size, but Champion School made big waves at the annual Cardboard Boat Race at the University of Lethbridge.

The kindergarten to Grade 9 school of under 100 students recently won the Junior High division of the race, which is hosted by Chinook Regional Foundation’s Career Transitions. In all, the event featured 50 junior and senior high teams from across southern Alberta.

Not only was it the first-ever title for Champion School, it was the first time in a half-dozen attempts its teams survived both the timed race and weight challenge at the Max Bell Regional Aquatic Centre to put themselves in the running.

“Being from a smaller school, we don’t have a lot of wins or trophies that we’ve been able to acquire over the last few years,” said teacher Nathan Jackson, who supervised Champion’s two entries in the event. “For them this was a real sense of accomplishment and they took the opportunity when we got back to go class-to-class to show (fellow students the trophy) and give them a quick description of what happened during the event.”

He said the look on the faces of some of the younger students reassures him that interest in the cardboard boat races will continue to grow at Champion School.

Palliser Regional Schools also had teams from Carmangay Outreach School and Huntsville School competing in the event, which sees students construct boats out of a few sheets of cardboard, a cutting tool and some tape. In addition to points for speed in the timed race and time afloat during the weight test, teams are evaluated on their design, construction quality, teamwork, and visual appeal.

Champion’s winning Grade 9 team chalks up their victory to their design.

“Because we did two layers of cardboard in the whole structure it was able to stay afloat and the bottom layer, which we had tape over, really helped it not to get super wet on the inside so it didn’t fall apart,” said Arianna Groves, who was inspired to compete after her older sister’s participation a few years ago.

Teams decorate their craft, with the winning Champion entry boasting the name ‘SOVAAH.’

“ ‘Students Of Varying Age And Height,’ ” explained Hayden Meadows, of the acronym. “We just thought it would be a very cool name because we are all different heights and ages.”

In addition to their design, Meadows said the team’s ability to work together was a key. Teammate Dana Beagle agreed, adding they weren’t sure what to expect going into the competition.

“We tried our best and as we went on building it we got a little more confident it would work,” she said.

While it’s a fun event, Jackson points out it’s also a great opportunity for students to apply the lessons they learn in math and science and other subjects in a real-life application.

“It works a lot with their teamwork skills and with measurements and accuracy of cuttings,” said the math and science teacher. “With the overall design you want to minimize the number of cuts and you want as many folds as possible to minimize the number of places where water can get in.”

The fourth member of the winning Champion squad, Elmore Bueckert, said he learns better through hands-on activities like the cardboard boat race.

“It’s sort of the fact I could see my science and math skills come together,” he said, adding the team’s leadership skills were also put to the test.

As valuable as the experience is, Jackson said it’s unfortunate that future funding for the event is in question.

“We often talk about developing these leaders of the future,” he said. “This is one of those small opportunities they have to really show the types of things they can do, the ways they can work together collaboratively, and then see the results of that work instantly.”

Images courtesy of Career Transitions.