When Fred the gummy worm fell out of his boat and lost his life jacket, students at Bayville Intermediate School came to his rescue! As part of a problem-solving activity, Maureen Pederson’s fourth-grade class worked with partners to “save Fred.”

The class was presented with this problem: Fred the gummy worm was sailing along on a boat (plastic cup) when the wind capsized it. He landed on top of the boat, yet his life preserver (gummy Life Saver) was underneath the boat. Fred needed his life preserver placed around him tightly and needed to get back in the boat. 

The solution may seem simple; however, these young rescuers could touch Fred, the life jacket and the boat with only the four paper clips given to them by their teacher. They could not touch anything except the paper clips. The rules also stated that Fred could not be injured or fall into the “sea” (the table). 

As each child brainstormed with their partner various ways to accomplish this task without allowing Fred to drown, they were learning many skills, problem-solving being at the forefront. They were also learning to work cooperatively with one another and think outside the box. 

Many different strategies were employed. Paper clips were bent and used to stretch the gummy life jacket in order to make it fit around Fred, and students had to work together, as it took more than two hands to reshape the paper clips properly and save Fred without injuring (puncturing) him.

Ms. Pederson said the project was not only challenging and educational, but also fun for the students. “They enjoy creative challenges that allow them to think, and they gain a great sense of satisfaction from solving the problem,” she said.

Bayville Elementary School Principal Scott McElhiney said students learn more when they enjoy the lesson, and added that problem-solving skills are one of the most important to learn. “Learning to solve challenges will help these students throughout school and in their careers,” he said. “If they know the proper steps to take to solve a problem, they can accomplish anything.”