Be Inspired—Meet the innovators at Waukesha
The Waukesha STEM Academy-Saratoga in Wisconsin is a K-8 Charter School that inspires over 800 students to become active participants in learning. The school is designed around a STEM curriculum—science, technology, engineering, and math, and learning is collaborative and project-based. Kids work closely together, in a hands-on way, to solve real-world problems. At Waukesha, it’s the norm to provide a personalized learning experience for all students. They've realized that when opportunities are created for students to actively manage their own learning process, amazing things can happen.
Eric Hill, the Riding for Focus School Champion, describes the learning as a way for students to have the power to make their own decisions on what, when, and how they spend their school day. Sound too good to be true? Read on: This creative school environment offers students the power to decide if they want to experiment with the 3D printer in the lobby to test some rapid prototyping, go for a bike ride to get focused, participate in a Future Cities competition, or compete in Google’s Science Fair. Students manage their own time, and guess what—“no bells” to announce class time! But it’s all a part of the school’s mission to engage, inspire, and empower a community of learners in thinking, collaborating, innovating, and creating for the future.
Principal James Murray, recognized as a Wisconsin Teacher of the Year in 2017, has been a part of the team since its inception in 2010 and is totally committed and supportive of The Riding for Focus Program. James shared, "We have kids that have been riding for 10 to 12 years, and some that have been riding for 10 days, so that blows me away and it’s amazing to see. To have a kid come up to you and say, 'this is the best thing I've ever done'...there's just no words for that."
Eric Hill, the Educator Effectiveness Coach, serves as the lead Riding for Focus School Champion and is the liaison between VeloCity Cycling, the Specialized retailer who provides the school with maintenance, trainings, clinics, and support. As a pro cyclist, and with decades of bike experience, Eric has the skills to be the point of contact for all things bikes for the students leading and coordinating the Riding for Focus school curriculum. His love of cycling channeled Eric into Project Echelon as its co-founder and for serving as the director of their racing team. Project Echelon is about people helping people, more specifically, it's about the community reaching out and supporting veterans by engaging, educating, and empowering them through physical activity.
With winter underway in the Midwest, and riding on hiatus due to the snow and cold, students wanted to ride, as they missed feeling energized in the morning and calm throughout the day. Eric spearheaded a partnership with an indoor bike trainer manufacturer and now the students can hop on the trainer, spin away, and still log miles to meet their fitness goals. The program is the same workout the bike shop hosts for customers. "It's a hard workout and the kids love it, but we sure are ready for spring to arrive early so we can hit the trails," shared Eric.
Waukesha STEM Academy is fortunate to have a champion that has a passion for riding and commitment to share his love for the sport. Throughout his life, sports have been his outlet, his safe haven, and a place of great reflection and growth. Eric believes that, in no other setting, can we get the immediate feedback that we get through sport and riding bikes. "You get out what you put in—it’s a great life lesson for kids."