Chatham Elementary School Creates 'Land Shark' On Veterans Field

By: Tim Wood

Topics: Chatham Elementary School , Sharks

A view of Chatham Elementary School students forming the outline of a great white shark in Veterans Field taken by a drone 200 feet in the air. CYNDI PENNY PHOTO

CHATHAM – From the ground, it looked like a bunch of blue dots on the otherwise green outfield of Veterans Field. But from 220 feet up in the air, it came into clear focus.

A giant great white shark, more than 170 feet long, almost spanning the entire outfield, was created last Wednesday as recognition of Chatham Elementary School students' positive behavior. In depicting a huge version of the school's mascot, said Principal Robin Millen, the goal was for the entire school to create something together.

“We wanted this recognition to include an event that would bring the students and staff together to create something as a community,” she said.

To that end Land Surveyor Thadd Eldredge, who has two children in the school, was enlisted to help with the technical side of things. He digitized a drawing of a shark, superimposed it on the field and isolated the outline. He used a CAD – computer assisted drawing – program to break the outline down into three-foot segments. The points were exported to Google Earth to ensure that they were accurate and accomplished the goal, and then uploaded to a handheld computer called a data collector.

With a GPS unit connected to it, the data collector pinpointed each point on the ground. With help from his children, Emma and Luka, Cyndi Penny, who works for Eldredge's company East-SouthEast LLC, and members of the school's coding and robotics club, a blue mark was spray painted on each point, and the points were connected by a thin line of blue spray paint.

On Oct. 17, 250 kids and 50 teachers stood on and between the points and Penny flew her drone 220 feet above the field to take photos.

“Everybody likes it,” Eldredge said of the resulting photo, which he said went “mini-viral” when it was posted on Facebook.

While Eldredge said this kind of operation is “what we do” – his company has most of the town mapped out digitally – it was quite an operation for the school, said Millen, and a school-wide expression of CES's “positive behavior intervention system.” The program's theme is “Proud to be a Shark,” and students are taught core behaviors – safe, honest, accepting, respectful, kind (SHARK) – that are reinforced through recognition of individuals, classrooms and the whole school.

“We know that students thrive on attention, good or bad, so we are always looking to spot children doing the right thing, rather than attention only being given when unexpected behaviors are exhibited,” Millen said.

Students are given shark stickers when spotted engaged in one of the behaviors; staff and students asking how the student earned the sticker furthers the reinforcement, she said. Classrooms have “shark tanks” which fill up with small sharks for both individual and classroom behavior, and when the tanks are full the class receives a large shark mascot for a week, as well as recognition school-wide. Once all classrooms fill their shark tanks, there's a whole school recognition, which is what the shark photo celebrated.

Students, teachers and administrators brainstormed the best way to recognize the school as a whole; as it was the beginning of the school year, they also wanted to use the opportunity as a way to establish relationships in the community, Millen said. Eldredge had worked with the coding and robotics club last year, demonstrating how science, engineering and mathematics come together in his work, and “jumped at the challenge” of creating an aerial photo, she said.

The shark photos can be viewed and downloaded at; click on “Drone” on the menu.