So, if you’re like me, you may be wondering and wavering on the idea of presenting “high level” college work to your students. From an English teacher’s standpoint, you’ve begun to already lay the foundations for principles and norms you see fit to conducting a productive, educational, and fun literacy environment. The engine of your classroom consists of many moving and living parts, and you know in order for it to get going, you must empathetically and ecologically foster a learning environment where the students have “voice and choice” in their learning and the rules that garnish and garner that learning. In other words, structure more un-structure. Be unpredictable.
Still, however, the idea of college for students from all walks of life must be presented as reachable, and scheduled visits to a local university where the students may “play college” are uplifting and paramount to connecting the work the students are doing to their future goals. Yesterday, we took our students to Temple University’s Sports Science Department. The tours of the facilities were informational but the times when the students could participate and engage in the science of sports — their eyes lit up and they fought for first in line.
We took them to a Virtual Reality room to show them progressive research on the relationship between the psyche, vision, and perception. A new word I learned was “propioception.” In groups of 3-4, they stood on a tiny 12 foot by 12 foot black stage surrounded on three sides of a screen. The screens showed the inside of an open-air temple making it feel like they were inside it, looking between its silver and grey pillars. The screens were set up proportionally so whichever way you faced, the vistas lined up. When the scientist turned the machine on, the screens gave the impression of movement, and the boys just slightly began to sway back and forth. Then, one volunteer-student took on the real test. The black stage had 2 foot by 2 foot portion that slid from one direction to the opposite and would immediately stabilize once the test-subject found his balance. Now comes the tricky part. The scientist had a volunteer stand on this portion of the black stage, gain his balance and stabilize, and then she made the views on the screen move.
This research is supposed to be leading research in the science of concussions and vision. I learned yesterday that the residual effects of a header in soccer can last up to 36 hours. One’s ability to tie his own shoelaces in the dark is related to propioception.
From there, we went to a room for the students to test the oxygen intake of an athlete in an aerobic exercise. On a treadmill and hooked up to a machine and mask and tube, only breathing through his nose, the college athlete demonstrated to our soccer-scholars the kinds of tests performed on athletes to test their heart rate, oxygen needed to overcome a tiring task over a long period of time, and even that athlete’s drive. I could see some of the students mirroring the college-athlete’s exertion. This visit seemed personable to them.
The students we brought to Temple University were 8th and 9th grade students. It was a joy to watch them soak in the college life, as fleeting as it was. Long-lasting are the memories. At one point while we were given a tour of the new recreational basketball court and facilities, I saw one of our students remove himself from the rest of the group. He was a sponge, soaking in the atmosphere, the future, his future. I could see this controlled fire in his eyes. He would be the first person in his family to attend college.