Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Do You Know What a Caravel Was?

I didn't know what a caravel was, either, until this last week.

According to my fifth grader, a caravel was a small ship designed by the Portuguese that was used during Columbus's time for exploring.

The students in his class constructed caravels of their own and conducted experiments to see whose ship was the fastest.
 Brad and Micah spent a few days constructing a caravel. The first was too wide to compete, so they had to start from scratch. The second ship was much better anyway. In case you're wondering, this caravel was constructed out of a plastic pencil tray, two triangles of wood, three bamboo skewers, and spray painted duct tape.
The contestants assembled for a pre-race photo. Which ship do you think won?
Micah is in this stage where he pulls faces worthy of a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. Can you see Calvin in these expressions?
Once it was race time, however, he put on his game face. You can't tell from this picture, but one of the boys in his class accidentally placed a backpack on Micah's ship before school started, and the back mast was broken off at the base. Micah did his best to keep it upright, but I don't think the broken sail had anything to do with the final outcome.
Micah and Brad looked up the reasoning behind the different sail shapes, and they used one triangle and two rectangles, hoping for optimal speed.
Each caravel was placed in the trough . . .
. . . and the designers were their own "wind."
Micah's ship was just too big for this gutter. Too big and too light for its size--it kept tipping or getting stuck along the side.
No matter how hard he blew, the caravel just wouldn't stay upright or sail.

These two boys have been best friends for their entire lives. One thing I love about these two is how they are always in each other's corner, no matter what the outcome. When the race was over, his buddy came up and said, "Micah, it doesn't matter anyway. Your ship was the coolest and most realistic."
Ya gotta love a buddy like that.

And he was right. It did look really cool. Broken mast and all.
And the ship that won? Look at the top photo again and see if you can guess.

Nope. Nope. Nope. It was this one.
The ship on the far left.

Much of the contest was decided by the conditions--the shallow water, the narrowness of the gutter. The winning ship was perfectly sized and weighted and proportioned for the race.  Kind of like real life--the ocean isn't a fair master either. If the kids could redo the project in the same conditions, I think there might be different results because they all learned a lot.

No one seemed to care much who won. I love projects like that, where it's not about whose is best, but what they learn. And I love teachers like that, too. Thanks, Mrs. H!

1 comment:

  1. So cool! We had two reproductions of Christopher Columbus' ships here on the river this past month. Your son would love them!