Students raced through downtown streets guided by coordinates and a GPS in an effort combining math and movement to test their science and math knowledge.

Campers at Racine’s  Summer STEM Academy are rising eighth and ninth graders.  They spent the week learning science and math by combining  labs and activities. The “Amazing Race”-style competition had science and math challenges that were completed at stops throughout Downtown Racine.

Combining Math and Movement

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“In all the science classes you’re just sitting at a desk, flipping pages in a textbook, and that gets boring,” said James Adair, 12, a rising ninth-grader at The Prairie School.

The summer program is designed to take a different approach, not just sitting in a desk all day.

Run by the Center for Developing Excellence and held at the Prairie School, 4050 Lighthouse Drive, the camp offers rising sixth- through ninth-graders “hands-on” learning experiences, said Larry Jozwik, director of the Center for Developing Excellence.

“Especially with the test-centered society, we are forgetting how kids learn,” Jozwik said. “They learn when things are fun.”

The young scientists and mathematicians spent Thursday morning finding the speed of cars crossing the State Street Bridge, measuring the height of the Monument Square statue and identifying trees near the harbor as a way to give the previous days’ classroom lessons a practical application, said Galen Steig, a middle school math teacher at The Prairie School.

Combining Math and Movement

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“Kids probably wouldn’t come out here and say ‘how tall is that monument?’ But (now they can) actually drive by sometime and say, ‘I know how tall that is; I figured that out,’” Steig said.

The week’s lessons also included learning to test buoyancy, make colors with fire and extract DNA.

The program coordinators hope to encourage students to pursue upper-level science and math classes and eventually STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers, Jozwik said.

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