Panther Tracks

Panthers + Super Bowl = fun way to learn at Barringer elementary

If you were a fifth-grader, which would you rather do this week: Study English, math and geography or revel in Panthermania?

Mindy Passe’s class at Barringer Academic Center is doing both. Over the weekend, Passe got inspired to use the Super Bowl as a theme for this week’s lessons. Her academically gifted students ran with the idea.

The result: Students are designing websites, researching life in Denver, creating football-themed math problems for the whole school and preparing to Skype with Colorado counterparts later this week.

“It’s a really awesome opportunity to be doing this,” said student Gabrielle Almeyda. “It’s not just about bonding over football. It’s about bonding over common interests.”

It’s a safe bet that plenty of teachers have worked the Panthers into recent classes.

At Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s Elizabeth Traditional Elementary, for instance, fourth-grade teachers Mary Schuller and Stephanie Lockhart created a lesson on persevering to achieve goals, using videos and newspaper articles about Panther players Cam Newton, Josh Norman and the late Sam Mills.

“We discussed how each one of us can ‘Keep Pounding,’ whether it’s academically or personally,” the teachers wrote in a lesson summary.

Nor is the activity limited to Charlotte. At Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy, a charter school in Forest City, art teacher Patricia Kean recruited students to take part in after-hours painting of Panthers logo canvasses, which were then shared with the team.

But the students at Barringer, a west Charlotte neighborhood school with a magnet for gifted students, have taken the tie-in to an extraordinary level.

Some students are crafting football-themed math problems tailored to each grade, from kindergarten through middle school (some of the older students work above their level). For instance: If someone pays $2,500 for a Super Bowl ticket after getting 20 percent off, what was the original price? (It’s $3,125, if you were wondering.)

The school will hold a Super Bowl math contest Friday.

Other students are preparing for an exchange with students in Denver, home of the Panthers’ Super Bowl rival. They’re researching attractions in both cities, comparing weather (“It’s a lot snowier in Denver,” said Caroline Halso, displaying a photo of a snow-snarled Colorado highway) and finding creative ways to describe their lives to the kids out West.

There are even a couple of young journalists: Olivia Catingub is collecting quotes from each classmate, while Saahiti Andhavarapu takes their photos and plans to create a video.

Dion Clark, wearing a Cam Newton jersey, talked about his sports hero while mapping the distance from various cities in the Carolinas to Denver.

“A lot of people look up to him, and so do I,” Dion said. But as for those glittery Versace pants Newton wore when he headed for California, “I was like, ‘what?’ ”

Passe lets the students work in groups to plan and carry out their own research projects – cultivating teamwork and initiative, skills that are considered essential in the work force. “It’s the one true thing that we know the future holds for us,” she said.

Passe, who used her teacher network to line up the classroom exchange, sees it as a chance to showcase young talent.

“I think the stereotypes about the South are pervasive,” she said. “I want to help the world to see that we are a very diverse population.”

For all the lofty goals, there may be a bit of old-fashioned trash talk when the two classes Skype.

“We’re going to say that we’re going to crush them,” Micah Wilson said with a grin, “and that they’re never going to want to play football again.”

Ann Doss Helms: 704-358-5033, @anndosshelms