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Phlotilla Cancelled for Future Freshman Classes

Sophomores Kayla Ross and Carly Irvine splash through the water to win their heat in Phlotilla 2016. Photo: Fred Assaf

As students approach the end of a long school year, they begin to lose the drive and motivation to keep working hard because of their excitement for the long-awaited summer break. Teachers try to compensate by planning fun traditions in order to re-engage slacking students, including the famous Phlotilla.

Phlotilla is a tradition initiated by the science department several years ago for the freshman physics students. Students use their knowledge of the physics they learned in class to build a boat out of cardboard that has the capability to carry people across the finish line in the natatorium.

Phlotilla has always been a much-anticipated event in the Upper School because of the excitement of watching freshmen frantically paddle across the pool in their cardboard boats that have a very good chance of sinking. Student spectators use their free periods to watch this race, and some even attempt to convince their teachers to release them from class in order to fill the stands. Even middle school students gather around the glass windows to watch this event. “I remember anticipating Phlotilla all throughout middle school,” said senior Prashanth Kumar. “It was really fun when I finally got to do it.”

However, the 2016-2017 school year will be the last year that freshmen get the chance to participate in Phlotilla. Scheduling changes and the lack of serious engagement on the part of the freshmen have influenced the decision to cancel future Phlotillas. A considerable amount of time is always allotted to this project, and freshman physics teachers have decided that it would be best for students to spend this time in the classroom covering new material.

“I think the focus has shifted away from the conceptual ideas behind this project,” said science department chair Dr. John Pearson. The original purpose behind Phlotilla is for students to get a hands-on opportunity to really show off their knowledge to their teachers, but as of late the freshmen have not been taking the project seriously.

Additionally, Phlotilla takes place on Great American Picnic Day, which is the last day of school for the seniors. The science department took this into heavy consideration when determining the fate of Phlotilla. They decided that GAP Day’s focus should be solely on the seniors and their last day of school. “It’s kind of a shame,” said freshman Aman Hashim. “My sister has always talked about it and I was really looking forward to doing it.