Several years ago I purchased a catapult kit, Backyard Ballistics, and The Art of the Catapult: Build Greek Ballistae, Roman Onagers, English Trebuchets, and More Ancient Artillery. Both are books by William Gurstelle. The kids enjoyed creating potato shooters, rockets, and miniature catapults. It all just seemed to be child’s play until my all three of my children became Scouts.
Their experience with the physics of catapulting paper wads and pennies taught them creative engineering and resilience. The skills learned also helped my two boys earn the Pioneering Merit Badge and our daughter the Ranger Award. One son is now a part of FRC Robotics and working on his Eagle Award. The other son is an Eagle who teaches other young people how to build catapults (as seen in the video above). And our daughter is a college student working toward a major in forestry, a fly fishing instructor for Philmont, and a Gold Award Recipient. However, I believe that learning how to never give up in the pursuit of building a properly working device taught them more than just finishing a task. It taught them how to be adaptive.
It’s funny that when I first starting writing this piece it was all about how much fun we’ve had building catapults, and how that project led one child to teach others how to build much larger contraptions of the small kits we put together. Now I realize that this entry is all about how much I’m really thinking about all three of my kids, the youngest who is still young enough to have peach fuzz, and how they are away for the summer working, teaching, and leading at summer camps.
A friend recently said, “I swear you could drop your kids off in Alaska in a bathing suit and 2 days later they would be on your front step with a fist full of pesos and a million dollar smile.” Perhaps that’s what spending family time together building catapults really taught. I have three young adults who can take almost anything and do something with it. Now that’s an accomplishment to make a parent proud.