An Independent School • Grades 5-12

By Middle School Director Elaine Christensen

Why is Middle School English teacher Andy Law building a battery-powered boat with the students in 7th grade science? Here's why. In each grade, Middle School students do an engineering project that uses the Design Thinking process (define the problem; brainstorm solutions; build a prototype; test the prototype; iterate/redesign). In the 7th grade engineering project, students build boats which must go straight for a certain distance. This is much easier said than done.

Last week, Mr. Law built a boat of his own, in the company of 7th graders in the class. He struggled with the shape of the keel, with the design of the propellers, with which materials to use. He experienced disappointment when he worked hard on a particular element of the design and his boat veered to the left, and he experienced joy when his boat finally went straight....like he wanted it to all along.

Then he shared his experience with the students as a metaphor for the writing process. A "prototype" is a rough draft. "Testing the protoype" is having a peer review the draft. A boat that goes straight is the equivalent of a final draft. The process of building a boat and writing a paper are alike—both take hard work, resilience, an ability to hear feedback and then make changes.

This anecdote models the best of what we have to offer at Lakeside Middle School. Teachers who are willing to dive in with the kids, engage in experiential learning, try new things, cross disciplinary lines to enhance student learning, and have a whole lot of fun along the way.