It was a bridge engineering lesson even an adult could appreciate. And for students in Becky Seybold's fourth grade class at Gearhart Elementary School, the Columbia River Maritime Museum presentation Jan. 4 is something the children will remember for sometime to come.
Maritime Museum's Field Educator Nathan Sandel has been presenting his bridge program to children for seven years with a high-energy approach.
"I try to make it fun for them," said Sandel. "If it's fun for them and they are learning, but they don't know that they are really learning. That's the trick of the whole thing."
Sandel believes teaching with excitement helps keep the children's energy up and they don't have time to get bored and daydream.
Sandel uses a slide and video show to illustrate and explain the different bridges and how they work in Clatsop County and around Oregon and Washington.
Following his presentation, Sandel challenges the students to make bridges that would withstand a classroom test.
"Each of you will help build a bridge using these small cards, paper and tape," Sandel told the class. "Then we will place small wood blocks and even large books on each bridge to see how strong they are."
The hands-on project proved to be the most exciting for students as they gathered into groups to help construct the bridges.
"I really liked the part where we all built bridges and tested each one of them," said Dalton Smith.
Fellow student Gretchen Hoekstre carefully watched as the other students went to the front of the classroom to test their bridge.
"I used extra tape to make my bridge strong," said Hoekstre, whose bridge was able to hold several blocks before caving in during the test.
"I learned about all different kinds of bridges and how they work," said Dawson Grim.
Sandel created the original bridge presentation program five years ago, adding other versions each year. He delivers his presentation more than 100 times a year at schools troughout Oregon and Washington.
"Some schools will have me make multiple presentations in a row," Sandel said. "So, if I don't have five different versions of the program, I get bored and I can't keep it. I try to make it a little different in every class."
Sandel writes his presentations to adapt to the state education standards and the standards of the schools he visits so that what he teaches will best fit the schools curriculum.
Gearhart teacher Becky Seybold said money for school field trips is limited, so having an in-classroom presentation is a way to bring different and valuable learning information to the students.
"It makes it kind of special," she said.
The bridge presentation is very captivating to her classroom.
"It is so much fun to see the children be totally immersed in the presentation," said Seybold. "A lot of that comes from Nate's great visuals. He comes well prepared and the children react well to what he shows them."
Seybold believes each student learns something during the presentation.
"I can only imagine them riding with their parents over some of the bridges and explaining what kind of bridge it is and how it works." Seybold said. "I am sure that they went home and talked about their individual bridges and what they could have done differently."
For Sandel, the work is pleasing and addictive.
"This is not a job that I thought I would be doing forever," said Sandel. "But when you walk into a school and the kids run up to you and they are so excited. It is addictive. There is something special about that ability to reach out to all different kids"