Flames Unite: A mini-boat built by students is heading to Japan | News

The third time may be the charm of the students of Columbia City Elementary School.

The school’s fifth graders have christened their third mini-boat to be sent on a journey across the Pacific Ocean to Japan.

Columbia City Elementary fifth-grade student Lucy Swiger rides her swing to christen the mini-boat.

The project is part of the Columbia River Maritime Museum’s Miniboat program with students building and shipping a small unmanned sailboat to Japan. Fifth-grade students at Columbia City Elementary sent two more small, handcrafted ships to Japan as part of previous projects.

The baptism took place during a school-wide assembly on Monday afternoon, May 23, on the grassy slope just outside the school.

The flags

The students attached paper flags with good luck messages to the mini boat before the baptism.

American flag

An American flag is folded up to be placed inside the miniboat for its trip to Japan.

The flames unite

The mini-boat is called “Flames Unite”.

Fifth grade student Lucy Swiger was chosen to take home a bottle of sparkling cider to be used for the ship’s christening. She carefully lifted the bottle and, with a powerful blow, stuck the side of the boat. The bottle broke and the baptism was official.

“It was very terrifying,” she said. “I was really nervous, but it was really fun.”

Yvonne Lewis, a fifth-grade elementary school teacher in Columbia City, said the boat-building project provided students with a wealth of learning opportunities.

“I hope students can connect with the community and see a purpose in working together and learning together,” she said.

Lewis said students are learning things about ocean currents, weather elements including tsunamis, classroom science and literacy reading beyond building the boat itself.

“And they had fun too,” she said.

Local resident Rosemary Jeffrey was chosen to help with the baptism.

“It was absolutely wonderful,” she said.

Jeffrey is a frequent walker in Columbia City and often passes by the school.

“I have watched this project for the past three years and when I see some students I ask them what they are doing and how the project is working,” she said. “They’re all so smart and so interested in what they do, and their teachers do a wonderful job. It’s a real community bond.”

Nate Sandel, director of education for the Columbia River Maritime Museum, said boat building incorporates science, technology and math and is a team-building program.

“All the kids have a particular job to do, and all those jobs are doing well overall,” he said. “So for me, it’s a way of teaching kids to work together. They make all the decisions and solve all the problems.”

It was unclear exactly when the new mini-boat would be launched. A decision is expected next week. Lewis said it’s likely the mini-boat will be picked up by a freighter from Astoria and launched from the San Francisco area for Japan.

The first two student-built mini-boats launched for Japan did not complete their journey. One ended up in the Marshall Islands. The other stalled at Christmas Island.

Visiting Japan could probably be a distant dream in most of our minds, but for a miniboat, d…