Lake Havasu Unified School District #1

Nautilus has BATS (and Mrs. Olsen is to blame)

Christie Olsen, a 5th grade teacher at Nautilus Elementary, went to her school principal in 2007 and said she wanted to bring BATS to the school. Mrs. Olsen is definitely an A-Team teacher. She has been a teacher in our district since 1992. For two of those years she was in charge of professional development for all district teachers, and in 2002 she was the first district teacher to achieve National Board Certification. Nautilus principal Shaun Goodwin is no dummy. When a teacher like Mrs. Olsen makes a suggestion, Mrs. Goodwin listens.

BATS is now in its second year at Nautilus. BATS is an acronym for Building Academics Through Sports. It is an after-school club open to the school’s 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. According to the BATS club constitution and bylaws, "The club will extend academics beyond the school doors as students study a wide variety of subjects related to sports." In other words, students will study sports in order to learn more about academic subjects like geography and math. Learning about the locations of sports teams, the distances they must travel to compete, and the different time zones they must cross helps club members learn about geography. Researching player salaries, ticket prices, and playing field statistics relates to math. But it does not end there. BATS activities are also designed to teach teamwork, good character, and sportsmanship. Perhaps this is better explained with an example.

We are visiting Nautilus Elementary today to see what happens during a BATS meeting. The club meets once a week, for one hour right after school. Mrs. Olsen is the official supervising staff member for the club. She is usually assisted by Nautilus 3rd grade teacher Tracey Kennedy, but Mrs. Kennedy is not there on this particular day. Waiting outside Mrs. Olsen’s classroom, we hear the 2:30 dismissal bell ring (Not really a bell these days, but an electronic chiming noise.) Mrs. Olsen moves to the door of her classroom and gives each of her exiting 5th graders a high five as they leave for the day. As the regular students leave, the BATS Club members start to arrive. It only takes a couple of minutes for them to enter and find seats. There are about thirty students with an equal mix of boys and girls. Mrs. Olsen takes attendance. Good attendance, good school grades, good behavior, and assignment completion are all requirements of participation in the club. She asks students to turn in any beverage can pop-tops they have brought. The pop-tops are a fund raiser for Ronald McDonald House.

Winner for best poster.
Best poster winner Caden stands with Mrs. Olsen while holding his poster and prize.

Mrs. Olsen reminds the group that there was an assignment. Students were to make a poster listing traits of good sportsmanship. Over the next few minutes, each student holds up their poster and reads off the traits they have listed. Some examples

  • No cheating
  • Participate
  • Respect
  • Passion
  • Making Friends
  • Responsible
  • Inspire
  • Shouting out, “That was wonderful!”
  • No one left behind

Once all posters have been reviewed, Mrs. Olsen passes out blank slips of paper and asks each student to write down who they think made the best one. She collects and counts the votes. Caden wins, and receives a Dan Haren bobble head doll as a prize. (Haren is a pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks.)

Mrs. Olsen now explains that the students are going outside to the school’s athletic field to play some games so they can practice good sportsmanship. As the column of students leaves the building, one holds the door open for the rest. The last one in line says “thank you” to the one holding the door. She responds “you’re welcome.” It is a beautiful day outside. Warm, but not too warm. The grass on the field smells great, even if it does make your nose itch. When the students are all on the field, Mrs. Olsen explains the rules of their first game. The students are divided into teams with five members each. Each team member is to take his turn moving from the starting point downfield to the jump rope laying on the ground which marks the turn around point. Then they must come back to the starting point, all while balancing two marbles on a paper plate. If a marble falls off the plate, they must stop and find it, put it back on the plate, and continue. A signal is given and the relay starts. Mrs. Olsen encourages the students to shout supportive comments to their teammates. Kids are moving, kids are shouting, marbles are dropped and recovered, marbles are dropped and lost. If a student is unable to find a dropped marble after a few seconds, Mrs. Olsen gives them a replacement so they can get back in the race. When the relay is finished, Mrs. Olsen makes sure the losing teams congratulate the winners, and the winners make supportive remarks to the losers. One of them says, “You’ll win next time.”

Two students playing a game.
BATS member crawls through legs of his teammates during a game.

Mrs. Olsen has the students line up and run the race again. They have just as much fun the second time, and when it is over Mrs. Olsen points out that the team which came in last the first time has come in first the second time. The students are all smiling. Congratulatory remarks are exchanged. Seven or eight marbles are still hiding in the grass. Maybe the rabbits will be playing marbles tonight.

Mrs. Olsen next has the kids form a big circle and divides them into new teams for another type of relay race. It involves running around the circle and then crawling through the legs of your teammates. Once again, kids are moving, cheering, and having a ball.

Eventually, the kids are lined up and moved back to the classroom. Sometimes it is difficult to transition kids back to their indoor voices and indoor behavior after a vigorous outdoor activity, but the students are well behaved and move back inside, taking their seats in good fashion. Mrs. Olsen talks about some upcoming club activities. They will all be attending a Lake Havasu High School volleyball game, and they will be introduced on the court. The kids are excited about that. Now the hour is up. Before they all go out the door, the students do the BATS cheer. ONE TEAM. B - A - T - S BATS!

After the students have gone, Mrs. Olsen explains that she started the BATS group to give students chances to get up and out of the classroom, “. . . doing something active that incorporates learning.” She talked about upcoming activities and what the teaching points are for each one.

First we will be writing friendly letters to the Lake Havasu High School Volleyball team. This hits the standards of writing. We will be going to a high school volleyball game so we can practice our sportsmanship and see sportsmanship in action. We are also going to be studying the game of football. We will be focusing on college teams this year. We will be learning the rules and positions of the game. We will see where the school is located (geography), the history of the mascot (this often relates to the geography or economics of a region), as well as studying the teams’ statistics (math), and famous players from the school (reading biographies). We do most of our research on the internet (computer skills), and in the local newspaper (reading). 

Nautilus 3rd grade teacher Tracey Kennedy also works with the BATS club.

BATS membership is open to any Nautilus student in grades 3–5, but is currently maxed out at 30. The club is popular, and there is a waiting list. BATS is eligible for tax credit dollars, and the money is used to finance field trips for the group and to pay other incidental expenses. Last year the group went to a Coyote's game. When asked why she was in BATS, student Raigan answered, “It’s fun!” Fun and educational.