Skate veteran and educator Bill Robertson, also known as “Dr. Skateboard,” teaches students who might have otherwise fallen through the cracks about speed, velocity, and momentum at the local skate park.
I’ve been an educator for over 20 years, a journey that’s taken me from being a middle and high school teacher to an Associate Professor of Science Education. I’ve also been a skateboarder for over 37 years. I started riding my board when I was a seventh grader in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia and stayed with it because it was fun and something I could do with my friends. Skateboarding quickly became my passion. It’s still part of my everyday life and continues to influence the way in which I see the world.
“Dr. Skateboard” was a nickname I earned as a skateboarding educator. I’ve made it my mission to inspire students toward pursuing goals in education along with their own personal interests. My inspiration for choosing skateboarding to teach physics came from my work with middle school students who were not interested in the topics of science class until I showed how much of physics, such as forces and motion, were found in things they did regularly — like skateboarding.
Catching Air on a Compound Machine
Often, students will ask their teacher, “What is the point of this?” or “Why are we doing this anyway?” They want to know exactly how the material they’re learning in class will apply to their everyday lives because, at times, it seems disconnected from what they do. Physical science concepts are often taught quite traditionally in school, and in an almost clinical manner, isolated to a specific circumstance within a classroom. This is what disconnects the tools and the content from the students’ experiences. There is a real need for educators to explore and connect content in settings that are both authentic and relatable for students.