Explorers, Boats, Trust, and Good Habits by Nathan, fifth grader


Learning about early explorers, fifth graders studied about explorers, journaled their way to the new world, used buoyancy, volume, and density calculations, coupled with metric expressions, and integrated technology and engineering to build boats out of cardboard and packing tape.  The culmination of this project was to see if their boats can actually float with a crew of three 5th grade sailors at a local local.

Throughout our school, we use the Habits of Mind.  These habits “are the characteristics of what intelligent people do when they are confronted with problems, the resolutions to which are not immediately apparent” (Acosta and Kallick, Learning and Leading with the Habits of Mind).

Nathan describes his experience with a recent project, the habits he used, and how trust from his teacher helped him thrive.


For the 5th grade PBL project, “To Sail or Not to Sail…It’s an Exploration!” We learned about boats and their roles in early exploration. To do this, my class did many activities. The three that I enjoyed the most were the explorer diary, straw boats and cardboard boats.

We learned about several explorers but for the “Explorer Diary” we made, I focused on one explorer and that was Ferdinand Magellan. Ferdinand and his crew was from Spain and was the first people to circumnavigate the world and prove that Earth is round not flat. For the diary we each planned what page we would do. Then we had to choose what information we had to write about for our pages. We wrote about his childhood and his travels through the world. After we were done, we wrote it again except on the paper that looked old. We were going to us for the diary. When we finished writing we printed images to go with our writing. Finally, we put the paper together.

Before we made the life size boat we made a straw boat. The materials I used were ten straws, ten inches of plastic wrap, 25 pennies, a container of water, and a 3-inch strip of duct tape. The goal was to make a straw boat and make it float with 25 pennies on it without sinking.  First we cut the straws in half. Then we made a shape of a raft with straws. We covered it all over with plastic wrap. Then we taped it. As soon as it floated, we noticed a hole in the plastic and then it sank. Our group’s boat’s name was the S.S. High Jack. It stayed floating for twenty-two seconds and got third place. It was fun doing this.

We did a lot of projects about explorers but the one I really enjoyed was the cardboard boats. The materials we used was duct tape, cardboard, packing tape, wood, glue, gorilla tape, box cutters, scissors, sponge brushes, yard sticks, a meter stick, butcher paper, pencils and markers. The objective was to be able to float and paddle the boat at lake Cunningham. By making this boat, I learned a lot of things. We had to learn are (base x height) and volume (length x width x height.) We also learned about buoyancy. Buoyancy means an item floating. We learned about displacement. It is when an object moves another substance and takes its place.

For our safety, we learned how to properly use box cutters and to close it when you are not using it. We used the 4C’s communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. By doing this we were able to work as a team, share ideas, and combine ideas. We also used the Habit of Mind of “Finding Humor” a lot because it was really fun building the cardboard boats even when we made mistakes. We also used the Habit of Mind of “Taking Responsible Risks.” We did this by using the box cutters with the teacher’s trust. I really had fun learning how to make a life size boat and working with my team.

All in all, by doing the explorer diary, straw boat, and cardboard boat I learned a great deal about explorers and boats. I had a fun time,and it will be great to remember.


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