Friday, January 09, 2009

7th Grade Science Classes Study Marathon Runner

Running a marathon is considered an ultimate test of the human body’s stamina, but exactly what happens to a runner during the standard 26.2-mile course? How does a marathon runner prepare his/her body? These are some of the questions that were presented to the 7th graders at Ashford School as part of their study of the human circulatory system.

In order to find answers, the 7th graders decided to study one particular marathoner, David LaPorte. Mr. LaPorte, a special education teacher at Ashford School, is also an avid runner and a second year participant of the famed New York Marathon. Using part of an EETT technology grant, students built microprocessor-controlled sensors that measured and recorded skin temperature every five minutes. Mr. LaPorte agreed to wear the sensors this past November 2nd when it took readings during his three hour and fifty-one minute jaunt through the five boroughs of New York City.

When he returned, students retrieved the raw data and began the process of converting it for analysis. This required the use of many algebraic concepts that would challenge even the advanced student,
but the idea was to generate motivation by offering data about a real event and a real person. It was a teacher’s delight to watch students like MariElle P. blurt out, “Ah hah, now I see how that works!” while diligently working on a rather lengthy equation designed to convert computer units into Celsius.

After the conversions were completed and a large format graph of the entire race was synthesized, a team meeting with Mr. LaPorte was held. He was able to answer questions about his experience and offer some hypotheses that might explain the dips and peaks in our graph. For more information and access to student responses, visit the class website at:

This is one of the many interesting science and technology experiences being funded by this grant during the 2008-09 school year.