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Local Charter Schools Hold Annual Cardboard Boat Race

2014 Cardboard Boat Race winner, “Ships Don’t Lie” (center) leaving the start line with “Cloud Nine” (foreground) and purple-flowered boat (background). (Bara Waters)

2014 Cardboard Boat Race winner, “Ships Don’t Lie” (center) leaving the start line with “Cloud Nine” (foreground) and purple-flowered boat (background). (Bara Waters)

by Bara Waters

The close of any school year brings many special events, but the most popular one for the Nea and Alameda Community Learning Centers (ACLC) is the inter-school cardboard boat race held at the Encinal Swim Center.

The annual “Jim Richards” cardboard boat race has been a June tradition at ACLC for nearly two decades, and has expanded to include sister school, Nea, in recent years. This legacy project is so beloved that it is a permanent fixture in both schools’ science curriculums.

“This project and the culminating race provide multiple opportunities for learning-by-doing in engineering and physics, as well as tons of fun for our schools,” said Randy Covey, ACLC math and science facilitator (teacher).

The boats are designed and built by teams of learners in ACLC’s “Science through Engineering” 8th-grade classes and Nea’s 9th-grade Physics classes, with a total of 22 boats competing in this year’s race. Most are painted with colorful designs and christened with names or symbols for luck, reflecting the teams’ artistic as well as engineering skills.

“The teams are only allowed to use cardboard, duct tape and paint to construct their boats, but it’s amazing what they do with those limited materials,” said Daniel Pasker, Nea math and science facilitator.

Each team performs an original cheer as they launch their vessel, adding singing, rapping or drumming to stoke the enthusiastic crowd of schoolmates and parents in the stands.

The various teams compete to win a gold, silver or bronze-painted paddle inscribed with their boat’s name and hung on the wall of their school.

Learners from ACLC also run the event, serving as emcees, timers, record keepers, assistant launchers and providing technical support.

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