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From left, Jessica Lem, Jake O’Brien (with hat) and Sarah Kanell work on the Eiffel Tower golf hole.

Handout
Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Seventh-grader Brianna Rockwell didn't quite grasp Newton's first law of physics until she went mini-golfing.

Rockwell and 80 of her Wood Hill Middle School classmates actually took many of the lessons they learned in the classroom this year and applied them to an unusual class project: planning and building an eight-hole mini-golf course from start to finish.

As part of the school's Expeditionary Learning Program, the seventh-graders designed and constructed the portable course, which will be used by elementary school students next year.

After many deadlines and lots of teamwork, the course is complete | and offers hands-on insights into the subjects of science, math and social studies.

The course's theme is the seven modern wonders of the world.

From dams to skyscrapers, it proves that learning can be fun.

"It was a learning experience working with everybody," said Rachel Margolese, 13, who, like Rockwell, was one of four general managers responsible for coordinating the work of other students. "It's amazing. I never thought we'd get done."

England's most famous clock tower is the centerpiece of one par-5 hole. Newton's law of inertia | basically, an object at rest tends to stay at rest; an object in motion tends to stay in motion, unless acted upon by an outside force | plays a major role in getting the ball into the hole. "It was easier for me to understand inertia when it was happening on the hole," said Rockwell, 12. "I can't even get through Big Ben, even though it's my favorite."

Along with Big Ben, France's Eiffel Tower, St. Louis's Gateway Arch, the Hoover Dam, Mt. Rushmore, Egypt's Aswan High Dam and Malaysia's Petronas Towers are represented.

Here is what students wrote to explain the Big Ben hole:

"The science concept for Big Ben is Newton's first law, the law of inertia. Inertia is what keeps [something] still when it is stationary or what keeps an object moving when it is in motion, unless acted upon by an opposite force. Inertia is used in the hole when you hit the ball up the ramp and down the pipe. Inertia keeps it moving until it gets to the end of the pipe. Inertia is also shown when the ball is going very fast. Its inertia keeps it going over to the hole at the end of the course. The friction from the grass slows it down and then it will stop by either hitting the wall or going into the hole."

Along with the four general managers, eight project managers were each responsible for a particular hole and coordinated the many designers, buyers, fundraisers, accountants, builders and artists who made the project become a success.

Those raising money aimed for $800 to get the project rolling, and actually collected $2,000. Though the project's completion was a few school days late, the results had everyone pleased.

"The kids take these things from step one and they go with it," said Sue Healey, Wood Hill's expeditionary learning instruction guide. "The kids just tend to respond really well with it."

"These kids don't get a chance at building and construction," said math teacher Donna Sunderland. "This was something they would not have experienced."

From budgeting and buying supplies to hammering and painting, the responsibility of building the golf course was squarely on the seventh-graders' shoulders.

"The teachers kind of stayed out of it," said Renee Lucia, 13, also a general manager. "A lot of the decisions were made by the whole team."

Sunderland thought the project was key to keeping the students focused on learning as the weather got warmer and summer vacation loomed.

"This is a tough time of year to keep kids energized," she said. "These kids have been working hard until the end. ... That alone was worth it."

All the hard work has paid off, according to 13-year-old Nick Marcotte.

"All the holes work very well and they're quite challenging," he said.

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