TSACS Holds Toothpick-Bridge Competition

March 10, 2017 | Becky Colvin

Fundraising for field trips is one of the challenges faced by small schools. In response, Maurita Crew has her fifth- through eighth-graders at Three Sisters Adventist Christian School in Bend, Ore., utilize their skills in science, geometry and engineering to accomplish a significant amount of fundraising for field trips all at once.

Every two years, Crew leads her class in a toothpick-bridge competition and fundraiser. Students design their bridges, built from up to 750 flat toothpicks, to span a 12-inch distance. Each student builds four to five single- or double-layered spans and adds cross-braces, all with just toothpicks and wood glue.

Collecting sponsors is the next step in the process. Friends, family and church members pledge either a flat rate or by-the-pound amount to support the bridge-builders.

Bridges are named creatively and spray-painted. The night of the bridge-breaking begins with a fundraiser pasta dinner. Then church and community members have a chance to view the completed bridges.

The kindergarteners through fourth-graders display gumdrop bridges they’ve built, creating anticipation for a future year when they will finally be able to join the event themselves. After much anticipation, the bridge-breaking begins, using a special breaker to determine how much weight each bridge can hold. Students help place their bridges on the frame, and then the 25-pound breaker is loaded with 10-pound weights, added every three seconds. An enthusiastic crowd cheers on the builders, knowing how much time is invested in the creation and completion of each student’s project.

Walla Walla University School of Engineering supported the project this year by donating mechanical pencils for all the students as well as a $25 gift certificate for the winner. The winners were Savannah Kasabasic, whose bridge withstood 335 pounds; Ryan Cheney, whose bridge held 285 pounds; and Caleb Brusett, whose bridge supported 215 pounds. First-time builder Quinn Gillespie also took home a prize for her bridge, which held 155 pounds.

Along with the experiential learning for the students, more than $4,000 was raised this year for upcoming eighth-grade and Washington, D.C., trips.