Kids make towers, inventions while schools are closed

Mar 20, 2020

The first week of school closures is over — but thanks to an online competition started by a group of Dartmouth parents on Facebook, local kids weren’t stuck for things to do.

Organizer Mary Waite, a member of the “Dartmouth Parents 14.0” Facebook group, announced the online competition on March 14, coming up with a different activity — like building a fort, solving a problem with an invention, and making something out of recycled or natural materials — each day.

Parents submitted photos of their children’s creations to the Facebook group, and winners for each competition were announced the following day, with certificates emailed out to mark the kids’ accomplishment.

The competition was such a hit among families stuck at home that it has been extended for the next two weeks.

In fact, Waite said, membership of the Facebook group has doubled since the start of the competition, to just under 1,100 members.

I’ve had great feedback from the parents,” said Waite. “I have also posted pics on the Dartmouth Helping Dartmouth website, which members of the public seem to get a kick out of and enjoy seeing photos of their neighbors, friends and grandkids.”

Waite came up with the idea for the competition in part from her experience teaching high school and working in curriculum development. 

“But most of my inspiration came from my own kids and from volunteering in the schools,” she said. “Kids love projects and they learn so much from play.”
With all of the current stress around the coronavirus, Waite added, play is even more important.
“My hope is that these kids laugh a lot as they are doing these activities, test their creativity and then check out their friends and classmates’ photos,” she said.
Dartmouth parents say that the activities are keeping their children entertained.
“The kids are enjoying the daily activities,” noted Jennifer Benevides, thanking the parents Facebook group for its posts.
“While we understand this is really hard for a lot of people, we have enjoyed how life has slowed down a bit,” said Ann Marie Mullane. “We have 3 children, ages 7, 4 and 9 months, so attending to their individual needs is always the hardest part. The challenges provided are great because they are a great way to keep the oldest engaged. She can get her little brother to participate, too!”
The activities are designed to be accessible to all ages, and can be done indoors or outdoors. All of them also come with extension resources, like Bill Nye the Science Guy videos, and questions to get the students thinking in depth about each activity.
Each one is judged by guest high school and middle school students who aren’t taking part in the competition themselves, and earns them an hour of community service.
“I do worry that all kids or families aren’t aware of the challenges,” noted Waite. “We’ve started an Instagram account (I’m learning that) and I’ve invited parents to email me, but only one parent thus far has taken advantage of it. I’m hoping more kids can participate and stay connected through these.”
Middle School and High School students are also invited to create a public service ad on social distancing, due next Friday.

Next week’s challenges are:

Monday: Build an obstacle course 

Tuesday: build a boat (or anything that floats) 

Wednesday: create a maze

Thursday: make a banner or collage with “Dartmouth Strong” in it

Friday: act out a role from a book (with costumes) for a short video.


Week Three challenges:

Monday: Build a bridge

Tuesday: Make a flag for Dartmouth, with four symbols and meaningful colors

Wednesday: Create a board game or outdoor game (make game pieces, cards, and game boards as necessary and create rules to play)

Thursday: Make a kite and fly it

Friday: Create a time capsule with ten items showing what life is like at home during this pandemic.


Each day’s challenge will be posted to the Facebook group with extension activities posted below, including links to videos and games. 

Parents can submit a photo of the results with the students’ name, age/grade and school (and responses to any related questions) to the Facebook group or by emailing

Take a look at our gallery of photos from the first week of the competition!