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STEM At School

The Cape Cod Catboat Crew Challenge: An Interactive Maritime Science Adventure

This “challenge” is a set of middle school lessons created by Stacey Klimkosky, who participated in the 2016 Cape Cod Regional STEM Network Teacher-in-Residence Program with the Cape Cod Maritime Museum. What she created pulls together the history on display at the museum and STEM experiences in a way sure to excite and inspire students to see science and engineering in the world around us.

The Cape Cod Maritime Museum located in Hyannis is dedicated to preserving and promoting our maritime culture and heritage. Stacey Klimkosky, the media specialist at Truro Central School, was there as a Teacher-in-Residence this summer, helping to bring the museum’s exhibits to life for middle and high school students.

The result is an interactive maritime science unit, the Cape Cod Catboat Crew Challenge. Klimkosky describes the unit as an adventure because of the game-like structure that will help students feel like they are a part of real-world maritime activities.

Here’s how it works: using simple materials, the student take on a series of challenges. They investigate buoyancy and water displacement with ordinary kitchen items, create aluminum foil boats and engineer them see which designs hold the most weight, they learn to read nautical charts to understand what is happening on our waters. 

As they complete these challenges, students record their ideas and reflections in the “ship’s log.” Each time they ask questions, make observations and connections, and draw conclusions, they have the chance to earn top spot on the fictional crew of the Cape Cod Maritime Museum’s catboat, Sarah. Students have fun moving up from Deck Hand to Helmsman to First Mate.

All the while, they are learning the science behind sailing, boat building, navigation, and other maritime subjects, taking on questions such as:

  • Can we control whether something sinks or floats in a liquid?
  • Can we determine the density of an object based on its size or volume?
  • How can Earth’s landforms have an effect on humans’ impact on the oceans?

At the same time, these concepts—from buoyancy to measuring human impact on the environment—dovetail well with the 2016 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Grade 4, 5, and 7 Earth Science Standards.

In addition to providing rich student experiences, the Cape Cod Catboat Crew Challenge gives classroom teachers a way to prepare their students for a field trip to the museum. Cape Cod Maritime Museum staff are available to visit classrooms, too, which can help extend the field trip experience after students return to school.

If you are interested in helping your students make connections among engineering, science, and our Cape Cod maritime culture, we hope you’ll try the Challenge.

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