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WATCH: Michigan Middle Schoolers Row, Row, Row Their Cardboard Boats

By Tim Newcomb | October 16, 2017

This article is one in a series at The 74 that profiles the heroes, victories, success stories, and random acts of kindness to be found at schools all across America. Read more of our recent inspiring profiles at The74million.org/series/inspiring.

When it came time for Michigan’s East Grand Rapids Middle School to craft a team-building exercise for the early days of school, what floated their boat was to set students adrift aboard cardboard yachts on Reeds Lake.

As both a fundraising event for the school’s Parent Teacher Organization and a way to infiltrate what was traditionally simply a game-filled field day with a dose of STEM teaching, students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades set upon figuring just how to get their cardboard boats to hold them up in the local lake. Students really wanted to win the race, if for nothing more than the simple desire to stay dry.

The Cardboard Classic Yacht Race Regatta hit the water with homerooms battling against each other in each grade. Yachts were put through both a speed test, with rowers powering their boats around a buoy, and a duration test that came with a 13-minute limit (as if the cardboard really needed a limit).

“As we looked at the 2017–18 school year, we wanted to incorporate some science and mathematics, and our location on the shore of Reeds Lake,” Principal Anthony Morey told M Live. “That sort of fun is just natural, kid-oriented fun, and keeping kids younger, longer is part of our school philosophy.”

The cardboard yachts came in all shapes, with duct tape keeping out as much water as possible.

Fortunately, all the rowers wore life jackets.

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