A Float to the Finish During SCOPE Week

            The highlight of SCOPE week for seventh grade students of Old Rochester Regional is the annual cardboard boat race when groups of students have a blast designing and building their boats of cardboard and duct tape to race on the open waters off Mattapoisett Harbor. The week of activities include field trips and creative learning opportunities outside the classroom. 

            SCOPE stands for Student Centered Opportunity for Personal Enhancement and has taken place during the same week as Survival for over 40 years. It’s a junior high red team/blue team teacher collaboration to provide their students with outside-the-classroom learning opportunities – ones to help them learn about themselves and each other.

            Kathryn Gauvin, a grade 7 teacher at ORR Junior High, helped facilitate the boat race event on Wednesday, June 5, at the Mattapoisett YMCA shoreline.

            “It’s the highlight of SCOPE Week, definitely” she said. “The kids are creative. They do their own research, create their own design. … Some do focus on and get more involved in the creative side of the project instead of the design side,” she said moments after one of the more elaborately designed boats capsized immediately upon boarding.

            As the students line up their boats along the beach waiting for their boat to move up in the line, watercrafts are reinforced by duct tape and more duct tape – miles and miles of duct tape of all colors and textures. Lizzy Pinzino and Chase Jackson were busy reinforcing their boat, “The Real Mauna Loa,” built by Pinzino, Jackson, and Aspen Barratt.

            “Oh my God, the water’s cold! I don’t want to get wet!” shrieked Pinzino, her toes just slightly submerged in the water.

            “This is surely the coldest and the windiest [boat race] day we’ve ever had,” said Gauvin.

            Students struggled against the wind that sometimes sent them too far off from the floating marker where they are supposed to turn back. At one point the floating marker even floated away.

            One after the other, the boats sailed or sank. It was apparent that the more simple the engineering, the better it floats. But that didn’t stop some kids from riding the waves of creativity, like the creators of an elaborate pirate ship sailed by Simon DeRosa and Nicholas Miedema who ended up ‘shipwrecked’ on the shore. “Lack of being able to steer,” Miedema stated as his reason for coming up short in the race. The wind driven current just blew them off course.

            Other races turned into a couple rounds of “bumper boats” as grade 7 social science teacher Dan McEvoy described it. And seventh-grade social science teacher Justin Calderone who treaded water the entire time in his orange blaze shirt and endured the cold like a champion was there to keep the ships straight and above water as best he could. Some boats at first glance looked like they wouldn’t stand a chance of floating, at least for very long, but every now and then the students seemed to defy the laws of the natural world.

            “I guess I don’t understand science,” said McEvoy, in charge of keeping time of each race, “because the ones I thought were gonna sink don’t!”

            Gauvin values SCOPE Week for its opportunity to get students and families and educators all together at one place for a really fun event.

            “We just don’t have enough days in the year when we can share an experience like this with each other and with the community,” said Gauvin. “I look at today and feel very fortunate.”

By Jean Perry

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