Beatrice Middle School students are trapped on Survivor Island, and must create food, shelter and a plan of escape within eight days all while enduring weather changes and risking dehydration.

In reality, the students are in classrooms, crafting things for their Lego Duplo avatars to survive as part of the school’s science camp.

Members of the Educational Service 5 ran the camp. ESU 5 is an educational agency that provides innovative and responsive leadership and support to schools in Gage, Jefferson and Thayer counties.

Each day on the fictional island is roughly an hour of camp, and students use materials like bottles, tape and sticks to create things for their Duplo characters. Sometimes they build bridges and other objects that their characters could reasonably use. Other times, the students themselves have to work together using rocks and boards, otherwise known as paper plates and yard sticks, to cross a fictional river.

“[It’s] just a way for middle school kids to be thinking about how would we use our resources that we have around us to solve problems, to figure out solutions, and come up with a way to actually ‘survive’ our little island,” Patrick Brommer, a science instructor for ESU 5, said.

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Matthew Dworak, another science instructor for ESU 5, said the goal is to get students using real-world applications of science and demonstrating them on a smaller scale, similar to what MythBusters does.

At the end of each day on the island, the students roll a dice to see what happens to them. Some chances are good, like ‘finding’ duct tape or a tarp. Other are not so good, like getting trapped in a cave and taking time to build a ladder to escape or having a tree fall and destroy parts of a shelter.

“It’s helping them both solve the issue but then also figure out which issues are of a higher priority,” Dworak said. “Fresh water is always going to be one of them, so figuring that out first before you move onto then figuring out how to build your boat.”

The innovative group of young survivalists returned from the island Tuesday afternoon, and a new group is preparing to test their skills next week.


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