Bill Robertson is a good friend of mine and is affectionally known to thousands of students across the US and around the world as “Dr. Skateboard.” He recently released a new book “Action Science:Relevant Teaching and Active Learning" on Corwin Press. He graciously has agreed to answer a few questions about his book.
But before we get started, let’s look at a video about what Action Science and Dr. Skateboard are all about:
Can you tell us a little about yourself? How did you ever get the idea to mix science instruction with BMX and skateboarding?
I’ve been a skateboarder for over 35 years, and have done demonstrations nationally and internationally. I have done hundreds of demonstrations in festivals, events and in academic settings. In my onsite school demonstrations, I have performed for thousands of students in elementary, middle, and high school levels throughout the United States, in Canada, Mexico and into South America.
Additionally, I have been an educator for over twenty years. My academic areas of expertise are science education, curriculum development and technology integration. I also teach and do research in the areas of problem-based learning and action science.
As an educator and a skateboarder, I knew I would have unique opportunities to instruct and to work with students and teachers, and the development of action science is a practical example. Through skateboarding and education, I have learned creativity, practice, patience, discipline, and goal setting. Many of my audiences of students and parents typically don’t see the connection between skateboarding and science. They often wonder, if you have a Ph.D., why do you ride a skateboard? The answer is because it’s fun and it’s part of who I am.
Give us the 10,000 ft view of Action Science: Relevant Teaching and Active Learning.
How can you get young people interested in science and mathematics? What efforts are there to integrate the experiences of young people into the things they need to do and learn in school? How can action sports, like skateboarding and BMX, be used to teach physics, algebra, data collection, and help students to grow in their engagement and motivation in science and mathematics?
An answer to these questions and more are addressed in Action Science: Relevant Teaching and Active Learning, a new publication from Corwin for Middle School teachers and the students in their classes. This book combines physical science concepts in areas such as forces, motion, Newton’s Laws of Motion and simple machines set in the context of activities that young people enjoy doing, such as riding bikes and skateboards.
Many authors of texts are looking to solve a problem. What problem are you trying to solve by writing this work?
Action Science: Relevant Teaching and Active Learning was written as a resource for teachers to integrate a relevant and practical setting for learning centered on youth culture that would allow for the study of fundamental physics principles to be brought forward in skateboarding and bicycle motocross (BMX). This book looks to solve the dilemma that many teachers face in teaching the concepts of physical science in a context for the modern learner. Placing the content in a relatable format with action sports as a focus, combined with the use constructivism, this book presents a strategy for teaching that is student-centered and built on active learning strategies.
Do you think that by using skating and BMX as your starting point, you might alienate girls that traditionally are not attracted to these sports?
Why write a book about physics set in youth culture? Primarily, it is a resource for middle school science teachers that integrates physical science content in the context of action sports, which should help to increase engagement and motivation in the classroom. The methodology integrated within the book is a student-centered, teacher-facilitated approach that allows for active learning within the classroom. I think this is an inclusive work that is designed to appeal to boys and girls, and the goal is to integrated engaging content to motivate learners. I also think that it can be easily expanded in the future to showcase other examples of Action Science that might be more applicable to girls, such as surfing, snowboarding and inline skating.
You have integrated a lot of QR codes and web links into the work. Do you think that text books need to become more interactive to capture the reader’s attention?
The content, images and associated video with Action Science: Relevant Teaching and Active Learning are meant to help the teacher to provide relevance for important science applications through the use of hands-on activities and engaging video and graphical content. I do believe the teacher needs to integrate technology in teaching and learning, and this book is designed as a crossover text that integrate video and high quality images that enhance the engagement aspect as well as unlock the interactive nature for content immersion by students. The book describes a process that a teacher can effectively utilize that integrates both relevant science content and purposeful teaching methods. It is not a workbook or a series of activities in and of itself, it is a professional development resource that utilizes an approach that can be integrated into the classroom in order to help the modern student learn more effectively.
Action Science is targeted to middle school students. Why that grade level?
The purpose of this book is to provide middle school teachers and students with a resource that will help them to be better equipped to instruct students and to provide students with rich and compelling content that is motivating and engaging. Action Science: Relevant Teaching and Active Learning is about today’s modern student in today’s modern classroom, and is designed to help teachers with relevant and practical approaches in science instruction. As with all middle school students, but even more so with marginalized students, science education needs to be transformed, and Action Science: Relevant Teaching and Active Learning is a great example of student-focused transformative resource designed to reach the modern learner. This is the way you wish you were taught and certainly the way in which you would want your children to learn.
How do you mix a constructivist approach to learning with skateboarding? Why do you believe in this methodology for instruction?
For education to be constructivist, the traditional teacher-student relationship, which historically has been defined by a method of the teacher delivering content while students listen passively, is discarded. Instead, teachers must serve as facilitators, mentors, role models, co-inquirers and friends, while helping students to seek understanding to the content of the classroom curriculum. Teachers need to view themselves as respectful guides and compassionate helpers who provide students the opportunities to become actively involved in their own learning and in classroom operations.
The constructivist approach used in Action Science: Relevant Teaching and Active Learning has been used over many years in schools across the United States and internationally, and the method is focused on the student and puts the teacher in the role of a facilitator in the classroom. This book combines detailed methods for instruction in the classroom, relevant activities for students to do, and captivating photos and video of top professional and amateur extreme sports athletes doing difficult and captivating tricks that underlie the science being presented.
Some say we need to go back to the “old ways” of teaching and learning: Kids sitting in desks listening to teachers teach. What do you say to that?
I say “no” to that idea and think that education needs to be relevant, practical and learning needs to be active and student-centered. This book describes the need to make the science curriculum relevant, so that a transformative educational approach can be used to motivate middle school students to learn science. If students who are reluctant to become engaged in schoolwork, can come to enjoy learning concepts in physics, such as, forces and motion, it may up to them open other educational experiences in their everyday lives.
Do you subscribe to the research that says physically active kids are more academically successful? If so, how do we get kids up away from TVs and video games and into the environment?
The importance of an active environment for learning that integrates oral, visual and kinesthetic strategies by the teacher allows for learning to center on the students. In this manner, teachers become change agents, linking the relevant life experiences of the students to the content of the curriculum, and in no area is this more needed than in Middle School science. The teacher must work to establish links within their learning communities, and to try and engage their students in active learning projects that require them to interact with individuals inside and outside the school. For the constructivist education teacher in science, learning needs to be extended into the fabric of student’s lives, not solely as a subject to be explored uniquely in a classroom.
I always like to end these interviews with this question: Who is listening? Who do you HOPE is listening?
I know that people wanting to reach young people, to make science content relevant and learning a fun process are listening. I am also sure that the action sports industry, specifically in the areas of skateboarding and BMX, are listening and actively looking for ways to combine education and action sports. Who do I hope is listening? I hope that teachers needing a path to relevance and a way to re-energize the classroom are listening. I also hope that Teacher Preparation programs and university professors are listening, and that Action Science can proliferate as an educational approach and methodology for teaching and learning.
You Can find “Action Science:Relevant Teaching and Active Learning” at these locations :
For more Dr. Skateboard Action, go here: