Metro-east students learn about science through sports

News-DemocratJuly 30, 2013 

As eighth-grader Madison Eason races down the track at Belle Valley School, she hands the relay baton off to Adam Flack. Teammates Stephen Schulte, 12, and Abby Meier, 12, record the finishing time.

Madison and Adam weren't competing in a race, but rather an experiment at a scientific sports camp organized by the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. Stephen and Abby documented the findings of the experiment in a data table drawn on a piece of notebook paper.

The four junior high students were trying to determine whether it was faster to hand off the baton while looking back at their teammate or looking straight ahead.

Abby said her team determined looking back during the baton hand-off garnered the fastest time, which was 7.94 seconds.

The group concluded "looking at the passer is faster than looking forward." The average time while looking back was 8.04 seconds while the average time for not looking was 8.17 seconds.

Following the experiment, Madison, Adam, Stephen and Abby along with the 44 other seventh and eighth-graders participating in the camp headed inside the school to create posters illustrating the findings of their experiment.

Camp supervisor Joe Cave, who lives in Batavia in northern Illinois, said the junior high students spent Monday morning learning about the scientific method -- a series of steps scientists take to test a theory or hypothesis.

Travis Scott, a high school student volunteer, said the campers also learned what animals are the fastest -- an ostrich and an antelope -- and how humans have adapted throughout time to run as fast at they do.

The scientific sports camp was led by six students majoring in education from McKendree University in Lebanon.

Prior to Belle Valley, the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy also had scientific sports camps in Moline and Aurora. The campers at this week's camp are from communities throughout the metro-east including Belleville, Fairview Heights, O'Fallon, Madison, Venice, Scott Air Force Base and East St. Louis.

The goal of the camp, Cave explained, is to teach the students about the scientific method and physics concepts using sports as the medium.

Money for the camp was provided by the National Defense Education Program through the U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base, and students were required to pay a $25 fee for the week-long camp, which runs through Friday.

The students will spend the remainder of the week learning more about softball, football, basketball and volleyball through the lens of science.

This marked the third time Abby, a student at John Burroughs School in St. Louis, participated in the scientific sports camp. "The camp is always fun," she said.

Stephen, a seventh-grader at Mascoutah Middle School, also took part in the camp last year. "I'm really enjoying it," he said.

Adam, an eighth-grader at Wilbur Trimpe Middle School in Bethalto, is a first time scientific sports camper. "It's a lot of fun," he said. "I like how it ties sports into it."

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or

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