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Sink or swim? Cardboard boat building exercise a crash course in multiple skills for students

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.
St. Joseph’s students Barett Edenburn and Ella Vincent paddle their craft — built with the help of teammates Ava Hatch and Kiera Rapine. Photo by Chris Marchand


By Chris Marchand

Sometimes a simple idea is easier said than done.

In a span of two hours, four students are tasked with the goal of building a two-person boat out of two sheets of 4×8 corrugated cardboard and two roll of duct tape.

The journey ends at the other end of the pool as two of the team members frantically paddle across with their hands, hoping their construction will continue to bear their weight.

The annual event faced a few challenges from last week’s blizzard which closed highways throughout the region allowing just three of 14 registered schools to take part —those three were local schools New Prospect, Open Roads and St. Joseph’s School.

Skills Ontario’s Michelle Crow says the teams are judged on the quality of construction and their team spirit. In the pool, teams compete in speed and how much weight their craft can hold.

She says that boat designs are rarely conceived of at the event itself, but rather are the result of significant preparation.

“There’s tons of planning,” said Crow. “Schools will often spend months preparing for these races. They’ll draw up guidelines, make sure the measurements are correct and work really hard to get these boats to work.”

That’s all a part of the kind of skills repertoire Skills Ontario is hoping to develop in students in the course of their involvement with the program.

“This event works on team-building, construction, lots of problem solving — lots of skills that help them prepare for their futures, especially in the skilled trades.”

Winners at each race qualify to compete against youth across Ontario in the cardboard Boat Race Championships in Waterloo, March 6-7.

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