Hemingway Tale Inspires Skiff Building 

Middle school readers combined classic literature with design thinking at IDEA Space this week. They worked together to create skiffs that could float across water, inspired by Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea."
In Hemingway's novella, a fisherman decides to take his small boat out into the Gulf Stream off the coast of Cuba after months without catching a fish. The tale takes a turn when Santiago catches a huge marlin, but he is quickly tested by the events that follow. The author invokes themes of determination and resilience as the old man overcomes danger and difficulties during his epic journey home.

Of course, creating a model of Santiago's skiff and sailing it across a foot of water sounds simple in comparison. But the design-thinking project inspired by the story did encourage Lisa Tillema's English students to problem solve and overcome obstacles of their own. Working in groups, they brainstormed about buoyancy and built model skiffs that they launched across a small stretch of water. The goal? To sail to the other side without sinking. They weren't successful every time, but learning from mistakes to create something better is one of the many benefits of STEAM learning. The integration of science, technology, engineering, arts and math into humanities and social studies is a regular component of Barstow's K-12 curriculum.
    • Brainstorming and boat building at IDEA Space.

    • Collaboration is key to successful STEAM learning.

    • Groups used straws, paper, foil, plastic and other materials to create skiffs.