MADISON, Wis. — Throughout the 2016-17 school year, Wisconsin student-athletes have paired with elementary and middle school classrooms around the entire state to work together through the Badger Backpack program.
The program, which is in its inaugural year, pairs over eighty student-athletes from twenty-one of Wisconsin’s varsity sports teams with more than forty classrooms from all areas of Wisconsin, as well as one classroom from California. Throughout the year, classes have had the opportunity to interact with student-athletes through a combination of healthy themes, interactive learning, vocabulary practice and reading literacy.
For the entirety of the school year, student-athletes and their paired classrooms have been virtual pen pals via Google Slides. To enhance this learning process, Badger Backpack incorporates weekly vocabulary words that revolve around monthly themes to encourage healthy habits.
“Badger Backpack is a great and unique way for us student-athletes to help kids elevate their vocabulary,” said Taylor Berry of the Wisconsin softball team. “Because we link each vocabulary word with something we do in our day-to-day lives, it makes it easier for them to understand, remember, and apply.”
In addition to being a practical way to enhance learning for elementary and middle schoolers, it’s enjoyable for both the kids and student-athletes.
“I love being able to make learning fun for the kids. It’s great to be working on skills that will help them in the future,” said Andrew Endicott, a senior on the UW football team.
Classrooms also have the opportunity to meet their paired student-athletes once per semester through either a classroom, Skype or UW campus visit.
“The kids loved hearing from [the student-athletes],” said Kris Carey, a teacher at Banting Elementary School. “It is so nice to see what wonderful young adults the university is producing.”
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At the end of the day, the goal of Badger Backpack is to ingrain a desire for lifelong learning by engaging students in their academic development.
“Our Badger Backpack programming is committed to supporting pupils and helping them excel academically,” said Jackie Davenport, Director of Community Relations for Wisconsin Athletics. “By fostering a desire to learn at a young age, our student-athletes are able to become effective mentors who make a difference in others’ lives.”
To learn more about the Badger Backpack program and how to sign up for the 2017-2018 school year, visit our website.