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Pound Ridge Fifth Graders Create “Volume Village” Out of Unwanted Cardboard Boxes

“I’m making a scorpion. It’s very much a work in progress,” said Pound Ridge Elementary School fifth grader Naoise O’Loughlin.

Like his peers in Maria Pappace’s class, Naoise stood at a desk lined with newspapers and covered with paint, construction paper and cardboard boxes of various sizes.

“We’re doing a math project called Volume Village where we have to make animals out of cardboard boxes that can only be rectangular prisms or cubes,” he said. “We’re going to calculate the volume of our animals and paint and decorate them and then put them out in the hall to display.”

Some students worked individually while others worked in pairs. There was a cheetah, a sloth, a penguin and even a squid.

“We both brought in a lot of boxes, so we had a lot of options,” said Charlotte, who worked with her friend Alexandra. Their boxes ranged from small toothpaste and pencil boxes to larger Amazon and candle boxes. “Of course, we picked the best ones and then played around with them for a while to figure out which would work, and which wouldn’t.

The girls agreed that the process was a little tricky.

“Measuring was the trickiest part,” said Alexandra. “And figuring out how to hot glue it.”

Students stand in front of their work

Ruby, who was working on a sloth nearby, said finding the right boxes to build her sloth was the most challenging piece for her. Sara got around that particular challenge by letting the boxes inspire her animal.

“I thought about what shapes my boxes were and I got the idea of a penguin,” she said.

Before affixing their boxes together, students measured each one so that they could calculate the volume.

“It’s problem-based learning,” Pappace said. “We are learning about volume and this gave them an incentive. They got to use their creativity and it shows them that math can be fun!”

Students were vocal as they worked through problems and actively encouraged each other.

“Ohh, that’s not going to work!” one said in frustration.

“That’s looking good!” another said to a friend.

“You know what? We’re just going to go with it,” a student said to her partner.

Once the animals were complete, students were excited that they would be displayed in the fifth-grade hallway for everyone to see — and they were thrilled that their kindergarten buddies would be taking a special trip to see their hard work.

students paint cardboard boxescardboard animal "Volume Village" display in the hallway