The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

Students build sandcastles for arts education

Antonina Mikriukova
Members of Team Sandcastlers begin working on their sandcastle, using shovels and buckets to move the sand. The teams were forbidden from using any machinery to help with the building; only manual tools, like shovels, were allowed.

At Sandcastle Classic, elementary school students, architects, and engineers bring their spooky, sandy, designs to life.

The contest, the largest sandcastle building competition in Northern California, was held at Ocean Beach, San Francisco, on Oct. 28, with the goal of spreading awareness about the need for quality arts education.

The Sandcastle Classic is an annual contest held by Leap Arts in Education, a non-profit focused on providing Bay Area students with visual and performing arts programs. This was the competition’s 41st year, and the theme was “Halloween Haunts.”

“I loved watching the kids getting to build something together as a team,” said Cristina Kusaka, one of the adults working with students from Garfield and Grattan Elementary Schools.

The sandcastle-building competition was an open event, and many people who didn’t participate in the contest came to cheer on the teams and enjoy a day at the beach. The teams themselves were drawn from different schools, with a priority on schools that Leap serves, as well as Title I schools, according to Jill Dineen, Leap’s executive director.

Each of the 19 participating teams consisted of elementary school students, mostly in the fifth grade, working with local architectural design, construction, and engineering firms. 

The firms hosted two to five classroom sessions with the kids over the span of several months to help prepare for the building day. During the first session, the kids were instructed to brainstorm and draw what they thought “Halloween Haunts”  looked like. Over the following sessions, the kids and partnered firms worked together to create a cohesive design, which the teams later modeled in clay.

Some of the teams drew their designs to scale using chalk. A four-square court was exactly the size allowed for sandcastles in the competition, according to Ryan Lee, an architect working with Central Elementary School.

The preparation for the actual sandcastle build was a very collaborative process, so everybody felt like they contributed at every stage, according to Lee.

In most teams, the kids were the brains behind the design.

“The students led, we helped them along the process,” said Michael Binnie, an adult working with Team Shells and Spells.

At the beach, students, engineers, architects, and designers worked continuously on the sandcastles from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Large-scale sandcastles require a lot of sand and water to maintain their structure. According to one team member, it took eight to ten people two hours to create the largest structure in their design.

After many hours of hard work and weeks of preparation, Dineen announced the winners of the 41st Sandcastle Classic: Team Mall of the Pumpkins. 

Second and third place was awarded to Team Dragon’s Lair and Team Creative Dragons, respectively. Each of the participating teams also received an honorable mention in categories such as Most Creative Idea, Best Pumpkin, and Best Classic Castle.

However, the teams were not the only ones who got to enjoy the Sandcastle Classic.

Some people came dressed in Halloween costumes to participate in the event, and parents of the competing students came to support their kids.

“It was fun to see the kids interact and construct,” said Laura Sanchez, whose son was a member of Team Killer Pios.

In addition to the sandcastle building, the event also included music, food trucks, and a dog costume competition.

Team Mall of the Pumpkins pose with the Golden Shovel as winners of Sandcastle Classic 2023. (Antonina Mikriukova)

Sandcastle Classic generates funding and spreads awareness about arts education, and has been organized by Leap since 1983, according to its website.

Leap itself was founded in 1979 in order to counterbalance California school budget cuts, which nearly eliminated arts education in elementary schools, according to Leap’s history statement

In the National Endowment for the Arts study, it was found that children and young adults from low socioeconomic backgrounds with a history of large arts involvement have higher academic performances and college enrollment rates than those with less arts education, emphasizing just how beneficial arts education is. 

Over time, Leap has provided arts and architecture programs to schools across the Bay Area, and the organization currently serves 7,000 students, according to its website.

The Sandcastle Classic is a tangible demonstration of Leap’s year-round efforts.

“We are working to transform kids’ lives through the arts, and this day is a perfect example of that,” Dineen said.

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About the Contributor
Antonina Mikriukova
Antonina Mikriukova, Staff Writer
Tonya Mikriukova (Class of 2026) is a sophomore at Carlmont High School and is excited to join the Scot Scoop team this year. She loves learning about her community and participating in local events. In her free time, Tonya can be found reading, rehearsing for a theatre production, or hanging out with friends.

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