Love, engineering and recycling

Fifth-graders fashion Valentine’s boxes from reclaimed materials

Valentine’s Day has long been celebrated in elementary schools. Kids everywhere look forward to receiving small cards and trinkets from their classmates.

In Andrew Schlauch’s fifth-grade class at Hathaway Elementary in Washougal, he turns this day of love into a fun lesson in engineering, by having his students create boxes for their Valentine’s.

The student creations, fashioned using cardboard, tubes, string, tape, water bottles and more, deliver cards and candy to loved ones.

For the past four years, Schlauch has had the students design the boxes as a way to build fifth-grade traditions. The process is based on humorous Rube Goldberg cartoons and videos.

“There are two rules,” Schlauch said. “The final product must incorporate two simple machines, and be compact and sturdy enough to take home.”

The benefits are three-fold: Students get creative with their hands, learn that good things can come from what others might throw away, and discover that engineering can be fun.

Spencer Nelson used a pulley and incline in his work.

“I just started with a basic box and then started adding to it,” he said. “I like how the top opens when I pull the string.”

Schlauch noted that the students are challenged to be creative thinkers in this project.

“Just like an engineer, they are faced with certain problems during construction and need to find ways to solve it,” he said. “I always love seeing students create catapults to launch their Valentines into their box.”

He added, “This year, I actually had a student create their own pulley system using cardboard tubes and strings to attempt to lift a basket containing their Valentines up to a second level.”