Momentum and velocity aren’t terms most kids associate with physical education (PE) class. When learning to shoot a basketball, they focus more on getting the ball into the basket than on calculating arc and rotation. Scoring may come to mind more than heart rate.
But a recent STEM in Sports Day at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, Va., showed more than 400 5th and 7th graders that sports and STEM go hand in hand.
Misti Wajciechowski, Doctor of Education (EdD) in Kinesiology (online) student at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), helped plan the event. At VCU, she’s an assistant professor in the School of Education.
The showcase of science, technology, engineering, and math alongside sports helped make those areas interesting for students who may think sports or academics aren’t their thing. Richmond Public Schools students made this discovery when they tested basketballs with a hidden chip that indicates whether there’s enough arc or rotation when shot.
Instead of learning skills in math class and how to dribble or shoot a basketball in PE, students are able to connect the two in a way that makes sense. “Using this type of technology allows the students to enhance their math and science skills utilizing data specific to their own performance,” Wajciechowski says.
An online doctorate program that’s a ‘perfect fit’
Wajciechowski used the planning of the event as part of her independent study to earn credit in her first year of UNCG’s online EdD program.
At most universities, successful promotion and tenure requires a terminal degree. Wajciechowski states that earning her doctorate at UNCG will help increase her chance for career advancement while continuing her work at VCU. Wajciechowski had enrolled in a PhD program elsewhere but says the coursework wasn't designed to further her knowledge specific to her profession. UNCG’s EdD program was “a perfect fit.”
“Each semester I’ve been able to take something from each course, and it has been applicable to what I’m doing in my professional career,” she says.
Finding a work-life balance has been a challenge, but Wajciechowski says if she can do it, anyone can. The single mother of two manages her full-time job with coursework. She also helped coach a basketball team for each of her kids this past winter.
The EdD program’s flexible online format accommodates her schedule. She spends four hours in the evenings on class work. “For those of us who need to continue to work while pursuing their degree, this is a feasible option; it’s all about time management and getting your priorities straight,” she says. “I just feel like in general we make time to get the things done that we want to get done.”
Teaching methods that stick
One thing Wajciechowski makes time for is teaching. This spring’s STEM event also brought in Richmond elementary and middle school health and PE teachers for professional development.
Wajciechowski says she and her colleagues want teachers to see that learning can involve movement, education, and real life application. For next year’s event, they hope to bring some of the technology into the schools.
“It’s not just about the sport performance or just the sport,” Wajciechowski says. “It’s thinking about all of what’s involved in sports and how what students are learning in school ties into that.”
Sports technology allowed students to see measurements for heart rate, hydration, and perspiration rates, bat speed and rotation, and vertical leap. The students explored simple machines and friction. They also explored how 3-D technology could enhance sports performance and assist with stadium and facility engineering.
Community partners brought Sphero robotic balls that helped demonstrate momentum. Students had to program the robotic balls to travel across different surfaces, like turf or rubber.
“They are in math thinking, ‘Oh, that’s right I learned this in PE,’ and they’re in PE thinking, ‘Oh, that’s right I learned this in math class.’ And so it just sticks,” Wajciechowski says. “When they have the connections between classes, and they can apply it to their daily life, then that makes an impact and I think learning is enhanced.”
Are you a practicing kinesiology professional ready for the next step in your career? Learn more about UNCG’s online EdD in Kinesiology program.