When Thomas Girolamo (known as Coach G to his students) first started using Unruly Splats in his PE class, he was admittedly nervous. Coach G is an elementary school PE teacher and had no coding experience before using Splats. Learning to code while integrating a new technology in his class felt intimidating. “I’ve never done coding in my life so at first, I was very nervous” he told us.
Coach G was part of an 8-week PE program that Unruly Studios ran this Fall with schools across the US. All of the PE teachers had never coded before and Unruly Splats was their first introduction to block coding. Coach G and his principal Alexa Sorden both agreed that STEM was a priority and they saw Unruly Splats as a way to accomplish that goal.
Alexa Sorden, the school principal, was eager to use Splats to integrate STEM in PE and other classes. “I saw it as a tool to promote creativity and excitement about learning. I also saw it as a tool to promote teamwork and problem-solving,” she told us.
Despite his initial hesitation, Coach G picked up coding very quickly and was using Splats in his classes within a week.
“The app is very user friendly and has pre-built in programs where if you don’t understand something, [it] takes you through a tutorial. They have lots of support videos online as well which were helpful. From week 1 to week 8, I feel like I’m a Splats pro now.”
Coach G has class sizes of 20-50 students and uses 12 Splats for the whole class. To make sure every student is participating, he often splits the class into smaller groups for games or uses Splats for full-class play. He started with games that are build-in to the app, like whack-a-mole and relay races to get comfortable with the basics.
Once he felt more confident, he started integrating Splats into his existing sports units, like football. One activity he created was a football drill where students throw the football to a partner who runs with it to the other end of the gym, stomps on a Splat, and runs back to their team to pass it to the next person.
“My students love being able to stomp on Splats without it breaking. At first they were hesitant to step on them but once they realized it wouldn’t break, they loved it. They really love the noises that it makes and the lights that pop up. It’s instant feedback.”
Bringing STEM concepts to all classes in the school was a goal that that principal Sorden set at the school level.“I believe that integrating STEM across all classes, including PE, is vital because it helps to foster ingenuity and creativity. I love that STEM encourages students to build resilience through thinking, trying, applying, implementing, and figuring out how things work. STEM naturally creates situations for teamwork and problem-solving, which promote critical thinking. Therefore, embedding STEM across all content areas helps to strengthen the overall belief of promoting ingenuity and creativity throughout content areas.”
Thomas saw Splats as a tool to achieve these goals and bring more creativity to the activities he is already doing in class. “With Splats, I can now check off Technology as being used every single day in my classroom which is big. When the principal is assessing me on that, I know I’m meeting that criteria”
Coach G also noticed that Splats helped make his classes more inclusive and collaborative. “Some of the kids who usually shy away from the traditional sports, they really shine with Splats because although they might not be the most athletic or the fastest, Splats creates a really inclusive classroom experience which is awesome to see. Every single student is participating.”
Now that Coach G is comfortable with Splats, he is thinking about ways to collaborate with STEM teachers in the school to get the students coding their own games in other classes.
“We’re always trying to bring cross-curriculum in the classroom whether it be science, math, ELA. [Splats] would bring all of those together because coding makes them think about math and science and it’s great to be able to bring that into the PE classroom as well. It goes hand in hand”.
At Unruly Studios, we love seeing teachers collaborating and are running a cross-curricular paid pilot program. To see if your school would be a good fit, see our pilot application for details.