UTEP’s Dr. Skateboard to Share STEM Curriculum in Toronto

WEBBill-RobertsonThe University of Texas at El Paso’s Bill “Dr. Skateboard” Robertson, Ph.D., will visit the Oasis Skateboard Factory (OSF), part of an alternative high school in Toronto, Canada, Oct. 13-14, 2016, to promote his science curriculum and demonstrate “Physics in Skateboarding.”

Robertson, professor and co-chair of the Department of Teacher Education – STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Division, was invited to observe morning instruction at the factory where math, English and other subjects are woven into business and manufacturing practices. He will offer skateboarding-themed instruction and activities that involve forces, motion, simple machines and Newton’s laws of motion in the afternoons.

His goals for this exploratory trip are to familiarize himself with how these at-risk students are taught, bring his Action Science curriculum to life at the school, and consider ways to sustain it there.

“This is an opportunity to learn a lot and share where there is a need,” said Robertson, who originated the Dr. Skateboard persona more than a decade ago to promote scientific principles to students in fun, practical ways. “I’m fascinated by what they’re doing. I see it as a great interdisciplinary, real-world connection.”

The factory, under the direction of founding teacher Craig Morrison, has enjoyed success since it opened in 2008. The OSF enrolls 25 students per semester and they earn academic credits as they develop their art design and manufacturing skills for skateboards/longboards and street wear, among other products. Program participants have a 90 percent graduation rate.

Despite the high level of success, Morrison wanted to enhance the skateboard-focused program’s science curriculum and welcomed Robertson’s help. The two met at a 2014 teachers conference in Calgary, Canada.

“We hope to start to fill this gap and develop a credit recovery science unit inspired by Bill to help students graduate,” Morrison said.

Robertson, who is a popular presenter throughout Canada as well as Mexico and countries in South America, said he hoped that this could lead to further collaborations with OSF, research grants and the publication of scholarly articles.