Students at Phillips Elementary School craned their necks and stood up on their tip toes on Thursday as "skateboard scientist" Evan Breder glided across the gym floor on top of four skateboards, stacked on top of each other, right in front of their eyes.
Wondergy, a "edutainment" company based in Philadelphia, runs tours across the country, educating and entertaining school groups, parties and other special events, all with different themes, but all having to do with science.
Evan Breder and Shane King, on tour for Wondergy, visited Phillips on Thursday morning and with the duo's skateboard science show, applied science to the art of skateboarding by teaching students about balance, pressure, weight distribution, gravity and energy.
JACKIE RUNION The Marietta Times
Evan Breder, a “skateboard scientist” for Wondergy science educational entertainment, performs a series of tricks in front of Phillips Elementary students while applying scientific concepts to skateboarding Thursday.
"We always try to look for something out there that is worthwhile," said Principal Joe Finley, on picking programs for school assemblies. "They are never just for fun, they need to be something where the kids are learning, too."
The show featured series of tricks in which the pair challenged students' knowledge of different scientific concepts, then brought them to life with Breder's skateboarding tricks, as well as other stunts.
"Do you want to see Evan lie on a bed of nails?" King shouted to the children, who started cheering, with many covering their eyes. King explained how spreading out pressure instead of concentrating it in one area offsets weight, which means the stunt is painless. Breder easily stretched out on a board fit with 1,000 point-side-up nails.
The duo explained the concept of kinetic energy as Breder rode his board across the floor, hopped over a bench, and then landed back on the board and continued moving without an extra push.
"I always found that skateboarding helped me deal with problems I had in my life, because when you're skateboarding, you're not worrying about anything else," Breder said. The duo completes about 300 shows per year, and typically start at the base Philadelphia and end in the Pacific Northwest. Both King and Breder started going on the skateboarding tour in September 2013, but have been working for Wondergy for longer.
"I want to give kids that motivation, and if I can get one kid to try skateboarding from every show, I'm happy," he said.
The program was one of many that sends information to schools about setting up assemblies, but Finley said this one came with a good recommendation. The Bureau of Lectures and Concert Artists heavily screens programs like Wondergy to make sure what the audience will be exposed to appropriate as well as applicable to learning.
"We want something that will hold the kids' attention and that they'll enjoy, too," Finley said.
Excitement was at an all-time high for the morning when Breder performed his grand finale: Using a ramp to perform an ollie and jump over both his touring partner and Finley, a stunt that had the audience screaming.
"I had faith," Finley said, after coming out of the stunt unscathed.
Breder stood on the narrow side edge of the skateboard to demonstrate how finding the center of mass will keep something balance, regardless of how "impossible" it might seem. Numerous murmurings of "How does he do that?" came from the student audience.
Finley explained that though it always come down to funding, the school tries to schedule anywhere from one to four assemblies like this one per school year. With educational assemblies that are also this much fun, Finley noted that he doesn't have to worry about making sure students pay attention.
Wondergy performs for shows for anywhere from five to 5,000 people and was founded by current President Ken Fink, the original "Singing Scientist" who has authored science textbooks and worked with Broadway theater. All of the Wondergy presenters have collegiate-level science education, and the company puts on anything from laser science shows to programs that focus on the science of sound and music.