by Faith DuBois, RiseVT Staff
There was a giddy, excited energy in the air on the eve of Trike Night at Grand Isle School in mid-March as students got ready to enjoy some free-wheeling freedom that wove math activities with movement. From the smiles and the laughter, the fun wasn’t limited to just the children. Families enjoyed the activities and infectious happiness of the kids as well, including the innocent joy found in the usually forbidden aspect of zooming through the school hallways on bikes, scooters, and Big Wheels.
The event, dreamed up by Erin Oliver, Math Specialist at Grand Isle School and Moretti, RiseVT’s embedded School Wellness Specialist, was designed to meet the combined goals of Title 1 Math and RiseVT’s healthy lifestyle initiative. Ms. Oliver and some of her students led the creation of math activities and Moretti oversaw the layout of the “town,” which came together in turning the school into Mathmagicland for a night. Maps led participants to different areas of the town that were located throughout the school. Each of the locations had activities that were engaging and fun, with underpinnings of math; students barely noticed they were practicing their math skills while going for a spin.
The first stop, of course, was the DMV to register your vehicle and receive a license to drive. The license doubled as a name tag and identified the level of math activity the drivers were to participate in at each stop. Older students were available as taxi drivers for anyone needing wheels. Mathmagicland had components of a traditional town, with twists. There was a Dog Park complete with two live therapy dogs and hidden Clifford the Dog signs for kids to find. Third grader Maddie created the Clifford challenge and took her responsibility seriously in hiding the signs and then helping the little kids to find them when assistance was needed. The popularity of her station spoke to her hard work and dedication and was a highlight of the night.
Of course, no town would be complete without a Library, which housed a variety of fun and engaging picture books that related to math. There were designated parking areas in the halls outside of the various stations, as well as a bank where participants could collect fake money to be used at the grocery store and theatre, where a gregarious hostess, Jennifer, led everyone in singing and dancing to educational videos.
The Gas Station provided a place for commuters to fuel up with a smoothie, which they made using the smoothie bike, where RiseVT’s Miss Betsy topped them off with smiles and friendly conversation. Then it was off to the Bowling Alley in the gym where human bowling was set up. Kids and adults had a blast pushing each other on scooter-boards towards life-sized cardboard bowling pins.
Another example of older student involvement was in the Park, where Ms. Oliver notes, “third grader, Charlie, designed a challenge for the night that was super popular. He created huge paper airplanes for students to try to fly as far down the number line as they could go. For little kids that wanted to, Charlie had extra paper for them to learn how to make their own paper planes for home”. Charlie and his coworker Emily had also created other math-related games to share in the town’s playground, which they enjoyed demonstrating.
In fact, the engagement of older students contributed a great deal to the success of the evening. There were 26 total preK-2nd grade students in attendance (with one to two adults in tow) and 18 3rd-8th grade student volunteers, some of whom were able to use this as community service towards their required service hours (though most were because of the sheer fun of it). The student volunteers did everything from helping to design, build and oversee math activities to providing their services as taxi cab drivers. Their involvement was felt to be empowering as it allowed them to engage in leadership and service roles. Asked if she envisions this event taking place again in the future, Ms. Oliver answered with, “a way to learn through play, imagination, and movement is always a thing worth repeating.”