School No. 4 pairs technology and phys ed for a night of ‘STEM in the Gym’

student and teachers having fun at STEM in the Gym event

Students at School No. 4 recently got a chance to combine their technology skills with unique physical education challenges at an event appropriately called “STEM in the Gym.”

In this unique cross-curricular event on March 28, students and families came to school at night to do their best at four stations set up in the gym: jump rope, basketball pass, scooter racing, and color-coded boxing. Each station was wired up to keep track of a contestant’s progress, tracking the rotations of the jump rope, hits to a punching bag, bounces of a ball, and winners of the races.

The event was organized by technology teacher Mitch Gorbunoff, who gave it a pro wrestling theme and took on the persona of “Macho Man Mr. G.” Each of the activities was conceived and engineered by fourth- and fifth-graders in the School No. 4 Vanguard, a group of student leaders in technology. The students used the design process to plan, build, test, and refine the games. They also, with support, programmed the coding for each game.

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“It’s an immense amount of work and these kids put it together in two months,” Gorbunoff said. “Their dedication, passion, and ability to use the design process to problem-solve are skills that will benefit them in school and beyond.

“Our students are growing up in a world that looks very different than what anyone expected. The problems of tomorrow will need to be solved by these students as they grow up. That’s why empowering them to be problem solvers today will make a big impact in the future. I’m so proud of these future engineers.”

To create each station, students used a “Makey Makey,” a circuit board that can make any conductive material act as the input device for a computer. The used Scratch, an online coding program to create the games, and several conductive materials, including brass fasteners, wire, foil, and conductive tape.

Gorbunoff was helped out by Principal Dr. Suzanne Olivero, Vice Principal Rosalia Kolibas, and several other staff members, including four who joined in the wrestling theme as the Macho Man’s foes, the “School 4 All-Stars.” They were teachers Gina Divito, Katherine Thode, Fran Kreisberg, and Arnold Lopez-Majano.

Kreisberg, the school’s physical education teacher who became “Commander Kreisberg” for the night, said that pairing technology and phys ed made for a special night for students.

“The technology aspect it great,” she said, “but it’s important to remember how much this enhanced the phys ed experience for the kids as well.”

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