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Only way to fail is to give up

Northview— When it comes to boat-building, one doesn’t often see cardboard and masking tape as the primary components. And for good reason, some Northview High School students learned.

Those in teacher Danielle Rose’s STEM class wrapped up the semester-long course with a lesson in not so much whatever the opposite of buoyancy is, but more in how to rely on instincts they have honed in previous projects.

“We have a wide space (at the bottom) for more stability,” pointed out senior Rom Horling as he showed off the two-person creation he was making with partners Alex Redmond and Michael Murphy, juniors, and freshman Benjamin Duffy.

Nearby, partners Alex Owens and Robert Barnes, both seniors, tipped up their boat and inspected it for holes and gaps they could plug using what was left of the single roll of tape each group was allotted. 

“I don’t think any of them are going to reach the finish line, to be honest,” said Robert. 

On the other side of the woodshop, teammates Kass Savage, a freshman, and seniors Caleigh Blankenship and Cheyenne Blankenship heard Robert’s prediction.

“I’m the one who’s going to be in our boat, so I don’t want to answer that question,” Kass said. 

For the record, it went pretty much as expected when they put their handiwork to the test at Long Lake in Sparta, though Rose insisted two boats could have made it all the way across had students chosen to venture deeper.

Trusting Their Instincts

But, having already built catapults that launched eggs, sleds to test in winter and an infomercial to sell a stain-resistant cellophane shirt they had dreamed up, Alex recognized the real lesson.

“It teaches you how to face adversity and accept that things aren’t always as easy as you thought they might be,” he said.

‘They know by now that really the only way they can fail is if they give up.’

– Northview High STEM teacher Danielle Rose

Added Cheyenne, who said the wing-like arm rests on her team’s boat were there for balance, “so if one side starts to go down we can lean on the other side.

“It’s about just being able to adapt, to come up with different ways to do the same thing. And to communicate well with your teammates.”

Mission accomplished for Rose.

“I want them to look for flaws, and see that fixing them is part of the success,” she said. “There’s no step-by-step guide, no tutorial. They use all the instincts they have been building.

“In the beginning of the semester they doubted themselves (when first given an assignment). Now they just jump right in. They know by now that really the only way they can fail is if they give up.”

One of her favorite things about the class, she said, “is I have parents involved. They’re going home excited, talking about school. And parents are out in the garage with their kids, cutting wood with them.”

Rose is in her first year teaching at Northview. She previously worked for Shelby Public Schools, where she developed the STEM class. She also teaches computer science, and hopes to add a coding element.

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering Kent ISD, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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