“We’re not going to be happy until the school buses from every single school in Virginia Beach come here to find out what’s behind the dinosaurs,” Mike Potter told the crowd of students and teachers.
Many in attendance admitted they had always wondered what was behind the dinosaur statues on Princess Anne Road.
The Military Aviation Museum, “the best kept secret in Hampton Roads,” answered Potter, museum director.
To address its “secret” problem last year, the museum asked Creeds Elementary School fifth-graders to serve as marketing advisers while, in return, giving students and staff opportunities to extend and enrich lessons in math, science, history and language arts with resources at the museum.
“Last year, our fifth-graders solved the problem of how to promote the museum. They came up with products to promote it,” explained Creeds principal Casey Conger. “Now this year’s group is taking the product they came up with, which was a STEM design challenge, to more schools.”
Nine more elementary schools, in fact: Christopher Farms, Corporate Landing, Princess Anne, New Castle, North Landing, Red Mill, Salem, Strawbridge and Three Oaks.
“We only invited the southern end of the city because this was our first time. Next year we’re going to expand it to all schools,” said Conger.
The first-ever Creeds STEM Airplane Challenge required all fifth-graders to design and create planes that would fly the slowest for a distance of 8 meters, fly the fastest for a distance of 8 meters and fly the farthest. Materials and tools were restricted to copy paper, cardstock paper, construction paper, newspaper, brads, 1 foot of tape, plastic straws, pipe cleaners, paperclips, craft sticks, scissors, staplers, paper punches and glue.
Each participating school hosted an event to determine the three student teams that would represent the school in the final competition at the Military Aviation Museum Nov. 18. An opening ceremony with a parade of participants kicked off the event.
Even students who did not qualify for the Creeds STEM Airplane Challenge benefited from the experience, according to Kendall Shuffler, gifted resource teacher at Three Oaks Elementary School (TOES).
“They all designed independently three planes first. They researched and they did all the prior work,” said Shuffler. “Then they got together in groups of three and had discussions about which was the best design and they had to come to consensus.”
“They all participated in the whole process of experimental design,” she continued. “So they were all going through the process of design, test, redesign, problem-solving, and, ‘This didn’t work; what are we going to do now? Do we start from scratch? Do we amend the design?’”
TOES fifth-grader Tam Ha was confident about the plane he and classmate William Brophy designed to go the farthest.
“We’re the best!” announced Ha.
“It has four wings,” said Brophy holding the airplane.
“It’s a custom plane. He named it the quad wing,” added Ha.
Red Mill Elementary School (RMES) fifth-grader Jack Marchesi was prepared for another category.
“Mine is catching the wind to go slower,” he said. “It has bigger wings.”
Speed was the goal for Chase Steinbrueck and his team from Princess Anne Elementary School (PAES). They aimed to be the fastest plane in the competition.
“Cardstock is the best flyer because it’s heavier so it will slice through the wind easier,” he said. “We put a paperclip on it because the first time, if you fly a plane without a paperclip and it hits a wall, the tip will get all messed up. So, if you put a paperclip on it, the wall will hit the paperclip first and by the time the paperclip flies off the plane will already be on the ground.”
Creeds fifth-graders, who planned and promoted the citywide event all on their own, had their own thoughts on how to increase one’s chances for success.
“The fastest is using all the strength in your arm to throw it as far as you can,” said Zykerria Hooker. “Well, that’s kind of for fast and far. And when you use your slowest plane, you’re not giving a lot of force.
“It depends on who throws the plane and how you throw it,” interjected Logan Leek. “If you chose a person who is weak it probably won’t go the farthest, but if you choose somebody who is really strong, it will go far.”
Leek and Hooker were assigned to help at the photo booth station. It was one of the additional activities students could take part in while they waited for their turn to compete in the Navy hanger.
Other Creeds fifth-graders served as photographers, reporters, registrars, material checkers, airplane retrievers, distance measurers, data collectors, quiet captains, timers, safety patrols and first aid representatives.
Giving more students an experience at the museum was pleasing to Conger, but the experience for her fifth-graders is what excited her the most.
“Our students get to see the culmination of putting something together from start to finish,” she said. “They had to plan it. They had to advertise it. They had to put all the pieces together. They had to think about all the different jobs that go into play in putting on an event.”
“I hope they see that they can represent our little section of the city,” Conger added. “And that they can give back to something that’s right here in their backyard while at the same time seeing that what they are learning in class has real-world impact and is real-world experience.”
Real-world lessons were shared by RMES students before they competed – teamwork, sportsmanship, goal setting.
“Putting first things first and focusing on your work will help you a lot,” reflected Ellora Geiger.
“Teamwork,” said Gabe Zarate, “and craftsmanship. You have to figure out what’s going to work best for each element. For the speed, how slow it goes and for distance.”
“We have to be good sports,” said Alexis Blakenship. “Even if we lose, we tried our best.”
PAES fifth-grader Steinbrueck also highlighted sportsmanship as an important lesson.
“Sometimes it can be about winning and sometimes it can be about sharing,” he said, “but overall it’s just for fun.”
But still,” he added, “I really want to win.”
Congratulations to the following winners of the 2016 Creeds STEM Airplane Challenge:
Fastest Paper Airplane
First Place – Christopher Farms Elementary School
Second Place – North Landing Elementary School
Third Place – Creeds Elementary School
Farthest Paper Airplane
First Place – North Landing Elementary School
Second Place – Princess Anne Elementary School
Third Place – Christopher Farms Elementary School
Best Hang Time/Slowest Paper Airplane
First Place – Strawbridge Elementary School
Second Place – Three Oaks Elementary School
Third Place – Salem Elementary School
See more photos from the event on the school division’s Facebook page.