May the Slowest Plankton Win

Sunny, breezy weather made for perfect plankton racing conditions on Wednesday, May 12. As part of the seventh grade’s oceanography unit, middle school science teacher Dana McNamee held outdoor plankton races modeled after a college basketball Sweet 16 bracket-style contest.

During their study of marine organisms, the middle schoolers were tasked with constructing models that would mimic the characteristics that allow plankton to stay afloat on the surface of the ocean. But students had to think of the sky as their water, and so utilized balloons, parachutes and other lightweight materials to build the perfect plankton. 

With their creations in hand, students faced off by releasing their creations from a balcony of the Middle School. With the goal of keeping their plankton in the air as long as possible without sinking, “It is the opposite of a race, as the one to finish last is the winner!” McNamee explained. 

Annabelle Trahan ’26, who was the winner in her 7AG class, explained that it took her several iterations to create the winning design. “I first made one with a balloon but it didn't really work,” she said. “I tried adding weight to it and it failed once more. Right before the competition started I ripped the weight off of mine and it was pretty much just a piece of paper and some string.” 

Jamie Milward ’26, the 7BB class winner with plankton made from a napkin, string and a plastic ball, particularly enjoyed the creative process. “In the designing and building stages, it was fun to see everyone else's designs, as well as have some early races against each other,” Milward said.

Nathalie Jansky ’26 and Jonas Balcetis ’26 were the winners for 7BG and 7AB, respectively. McNamee said the seventh graders were “thrilled to be able to put their work into action through the day’s events.”

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