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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)
At 10:45 a.m. most Tuesdays, Holton Elementary School fifth-grader Scarlett Gibson is sitting behind a desk learning about science. It's not her favorite.
"We were talking about the ocean, and now we're learning about cells," she said. "I don't like it. I just don't see how I would use science as an adult."
But Scarlett - "like the guitar" - loves to dance and is curious about muscle imbalances, strength-building and motion.
On Tuesday, she and about 450 other Richmond Public School students saw science, technology, engineering and math come to life during STEM in Sports Day at the Siegel Center. The event, a partnership between VCU School of Education and VCU Athletics, brought about 50 student teachers, athletics workers and volunteers together to show city elementary and middle schoolers how STEM and sports overlap.
"It's pretty cool," Scarlett allowed, after gripping a sensor that measured her vertical leap at one of more than a dozen stations ranging from a robotics display to a session on nutrition from the athletic program's dietitian.
The university's education department already partners with Richmond Public School teachers on staff development. Inviting teachers and their students to participate in hands-on learning seemed a logical extension, said Misti Wajciechowski, who prepares college students to become health and physical education teachers as an assistant professor at VCU.
"This is real-life learning," she said. "It's not just, 'I'm sitting in a math class.' "
Peals of laughter and excited chatter ricocheted off the center's walls Tuesday morning as students shot basketballs, manipulated gears and pulleys, and kicked soccer balls outfitted with sensors.
The event built on and expanded from a similar showcase held last year, Wajciechowski said. Students had a chance to tour the weight room used by student athletes and talk to a VCU soccer player who demonstrated how technology helps boost performance.
"We did not have anything like this back home (in Jamaica)," freshman Zeron Sewell said of the sensor strapped across his chest.
The unit tracks his vital signs and how far he's run. The whole team practices outfitted in the devices.
Kaylah Coles, 11, said although everyone had been looking forward to the outing for weeks, she was not sure what to expect.
"I knew we'd be talking about science, but I didn't know it would be so active," she said. "I'm having a lot of fun."
Mission accomplished, said volunteer Lori Morgan, as she tracked how fast elementary school students hoofed soccer balls into nets.
"Getting the students invested in this stuff is important, and so much easier when it's also fun," Morgan said.
The first in a line to strike kicked so hard he lost a black high-top sneaker. The ball peeled off to the left.
"That's OK," Morgan said. "Lace up and try again."
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