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Students combine exercise and coding in this Henrico class

PE STEM class Henrico .jpg
Posted at 7:26 AM, Feb 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-28 07:27:54-05

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — Physical Education class with Kevin Napier at Nuckols Farm Elementary is far from what some of us right remember from elementary school. While the students are still doing jumping jacks and relay races, they’re also learning how to code.

"Your mom and dad's P.E. is not what you see most places today," said Napier.

Henrico County received a grant to purchase devices that look like colorful floor tiles, called Unruly Splats. The devices are connected to an iPad that helps teach students how to do simple, block-based coding as they run through exercises.

"They can quickly see how whatever they code on the iPad can transition over to the splats," Napier explained.

Napier has only been teaching for three years, but last school year he was given the challenge of trying to teach students P.E. while they were learning from home due to the ongoing pandemic.

"We had to be really creative," he noted. "I dressed up as something different almost every week, Superman, a fire firefighter. We did a little Safari hunt with animal movements, and I dressed up in a little hat."

National studies show the pandemic caused an alarming drop in physical activity for kids, but Napier said since returning to in-person learning, his students have been excited to exercise.

Combined PE STEM Class Henrico .jpg
This class teaches students physical education and coding.

The Unruly Splats have also helped every child feel like there is something they can enjoy about physical education class.

"We're able to get engagement from all students," Napier said. "Engagement levels with them have skyrocketed."

He uses the coding devices with students in third through fifth grades, and when CBS 6 visited Napier's class, the students used the Splats at several different exercise stations.

"It's unique because usually gym teachers just make you do push ups and stuff," said fourth grader Henry Nicholson. "But this gym teacher makes us do fun stuff, actually."

Napier recently received a national award from Unruly Splats for the way he incorporates the devices into his classes to ensure every student enjoys physical activity.

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