By Joe Snell | DFW Newsflash | March 2017
Brandenburg Elementary fifth-grader Juan G. and his teammates became worried about their plane’s stability when they were tasked with rebuilding a model of the 1946 Bell X-1 with only repurposed milk cartons. The group rebuilt the design five times before submitting the model to the 2016 Made by Milk Carton Construction Project, an annual competition where classrooms nationwide repurpose milk cartons into creative designs. Juan and his class were one of 14 elementary and secondary schools across the country to win an award at this year’s contest.
“We did not get involved in helping [the students] at all,” said fifth-grade teacher Grizelle Larriviel. “They got stuck sometimes. They didn’t know how to create a curve to make the nose on some of the planes. The 1905 Wright Flyer took three tries to look like the model. We have really high expectations for our kids. This is a national competition and we really strive to do excellent work.”
Larriviel and her co-teacher Irene Sosa began preparing their classroom’s entry of eight hand-crafted model airplanes back in October when the idea for the aviation theme evolved from classroom discussions on force, motion and Newton’s laws. It was the classroom’s environmental specialist, a student leader chosen by the teachers, who first proposed modeling planes. From there, the classroom’s 38 students had three and a half weeks to collect milk cartons and build model planes before completing a photography and short essay submission.
“We needed to collect as many cartons as possible in a short amount of time,” Larriviel said. “In one week, we collected all the cartons that we could from the morning breakfast, as well as lunch. Then our kids, especially the environmental specialist, were making sure they were clean and dry.”
In total, the group used 1,244 milk cartons. This year’s contest theme was “Inventions” and winning designs ranged from a serpent to musical instruments to even a Mars rover.
Brandenburg’s final submission, ‘Aviation Evolution 1905 – 1994,’ showcased eight planes, one from each decade beginning with the 1905 Wright Flyer and ending with the 1994 Boeing 777. Other planes included the 1911 Deperdussin Monocoque, the 1920 Zeppelin-Staaken, the 1930 Douglas DC-1, the 1946 Bell X-1, the 1954 Boeing 367-80, and the 1983 Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk.
Fifth-grader America O.’s team designed a replica of the commercial transport Douglas DC-1.
“We were self-directed,” America said. “We could really imagine our plane just how we built it. There weren’t directions involved, it was just us with our imaginations and knowing about the plane.”
America now considers pursuing aviation as a career. She and her classmates will celebrate the win by taking a trip to the American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum.
“They’ll be doing two STEM related workshops on force and motion, so it’s almost like they get to have this full circle,” Larriviel said. “[The museum] has a model of the Douglas DC-4. They get to walk in the plane and that will be a first for many of our kids who have never been on a plane.”
One hundred seventy-one schools participated in this year’s contest. Winners were announced by Evergreen Packaging, a leading beverage carton manufacturer. Paulsboro High School of Paulsboro, New Jersey, won the grand prize of $5,000 for their project ‘SLURPIT Serpent.’ Hiawatha Elementary School in Hiawatha, Kansas won the people’s choice and $2,500 for their submission ‘The Tractor: An Invention that Impacts Our Community.’ The remaining twelve schools, including Brandenburg Elementary in Irving, each won $1,000.
Brandenburg is one of two schools in the area with a dual language program. Larriviel and Sosa swap their classrooms roughly every week as Larriviel teaches in Spanish and Sosa educates in English for all courses except science, which Larriviel also teaches in English.
In 2013, Larriviel’s class took part in the Made by Milk contest and won the People’s Choice Award. Using the theme of landmarks, they created a large model of the globe and titled it ‘Where in the World.’ The globe had 3D landmarks placed on different continents and was so large the class could not get it out of the classroom door.
This year’s contest allowed the students to showcase their hard work for the entire school, initiate a larger discussion about force and motion, and encourage students to learn more about careers in engineering.
“We had a museum gallery walk for the school after our planes were completed,” Larriviel said. “We displayed the airplanes, and kinder through fifth grade students had an opportunity to look at the planes, walk around them, ask some questions, and the students talked a little about them as well.”