Elm Grove Elementary School teacher Stephanie Crow has turned a long-time "obsession" with motocross racing into an opportunity to make difficult subjects exciting in her classroom.
Crow's fourth grade class is following the career of local professional motocross racer Daniel Herrlein, originally from Bethesda, as a way to teach math concepts and geography. Since February, the students have been keeping track of Herrlein's racing season, recording his times and the states he visits.
In Crow's classroom are three boards with a large map tracking the places Herrlein has visited for a race as well as graphs and pictures of him. Crow said students graph Herrlein's lap times at each race and then use those results to figure out the mean, median, mode and range of his combined times.
Photo by Sarah Harmon
Teacher Stephanie Crow, left, shows Elm Grove Elementary students John Olako and Kristin Dunn areas on a map where motocross racer Daniel Herrlein has traveled. The fourth grade is following Herrlein’s career as a way to learn math and geography.
"They don't really think it's math when they are looking at Daniel's lap times," Crow said. "They love it. Now they are seeing purpose behind it, because we are graphing somebody they can actually see and watch on television."
In addition, the class measures the distance between the locations of Herrlein's last race and his next race using a ruler. They then use scale to determine how many miles he will travel next. Everytime Herrlein visits a new state, the class learns about the geography of that area. So far this season, Herrlein has traveled to Texas, Minnesota, Georgia, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Texas and Nevada.
"These are some of the areas we struggle with on our state tests, so it's nice to have a fun way for them to review," Crow said. "We won't know the results until next year, but I'm hoping to see a nice progression, since every week we are reviewing something they have struggled with in the past."
Student Kristin Dunn said she was surprised when Crow announced the class would be studying motocross racing, but she said it has helped her learn averages in math. Student John Olako said he wasn't interested in motocross racing until this school year and now is a big fan.
At the end of the year, students who turn in their worksheets tracking the racer will be entered into a drawing for autographed plastic parts of Herrlein's bikes displayed around the classroom.
Crow said Herrlein has not visited her classroom yet, but they are making plans for him to meet the class, as well as the incoming fourth-graders, at the beginning of next year. In the meantime, Crow is arranging a video chat between the class and Herrlein and has shown them a taped interview between Crow and Herrlein in which the racer answers students' questions on video.
Crow said she and her husband own several dirt bikes and were excited to find a way to incorporate her passion into the classroom. She said she met Herrlein before he became a professional racer, making it easy for the class to stay in contact with him.
"He went pro last year and I noticed this year he had gotten better, so I contacted him," Crow said. "His team has sent parts of his bike and autographed pictures. It's been a very nice relationship."