A Florida couple – fueled by their passion for surfing, skating and ocean engineering, found a way to teach academics to groups of homeschooled kids through action sports.
Toni and Uli Frallicciardi longed to create a curriculum that pushed beyond the four walls of a classroom and even homeschooled their own three children to make learning come “alive.”
In 2018, they turned their passion into a reality.
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It just so happened to come at a time when the Parkland, Florida, community needed it most.
The Frallicciardis told Fox News that they live within 10 minutes of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. After the mass shooting in February 2018, the couple met a number of families in the area that decided to homeschool their children.
As Uli Frallicciardi remembers it, they instantly “felt the need to kind of step up and serve the community,” he told Fox News.
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That was the beginning of Surf Skate Science.
The educational program, which now spans multiple counties in South Florida, uses surfing and skateboarding to teach science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) to students in kindergarten through high school who are homeschooled.
Surfing and Skating “are two of the only sports that use all four sections of the brain,” Toni Frallicciardi told Fox News. Not only do the two sports promote “social, emotional, and intellectual learning,” but they are a “great way for kids to put learning into action,” she added.
The Frallicciardis grew up skating and surfing, learning skills that they eventually passed down to their children as well as communities around the world. Not only did they build and run their own skatepark for 15 years, but they even had two members of the first-ever U.S. Olympic skateboarding team – Jake Ilardi and Zion Wright – who will compete in the Tokyo Games, skate at the park.
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For 45 minutes, students are immersed in a science lesson or lab given by Toni Frallicciardi, who has a degree in ocean engineering from the Florida Institute of Technology, at a skate park or beach. From there, the kids head to Uli Frallicciardi where they get to apply what they learned on a surfboard or skateboard.
After each lesson, Toni Frallicciardi sends the lesson plan to the families “so if it’s something they’re [the kids] really interested in, then they can learn more about it,” she said.
When they initially launched the program, the Frallicciardis worked with just eight children. Each semester afterward, more families wanted to participate and now, about 120 kids are enrolled in the program.
The Frallicciardis had so many sign-ups that they had to double the number of classes they offered and there is still a waitlist of about 15 families, Toni Frallicciardi said.
To keep the classes engaging, Toni Frallicciardi works hard to “get really creative.”
In one instance, she had her students build surfboards out of recycled water bottles which they later tested out on the water. As part of the lesson, they got to talk about “plastic and recycling and why that’s important and how that affects our environment,” she said.
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“I learned that every kid learns a different way and some kids are visual learners, some kids are auditory learners, some kids, you know, learn through touching or feeling,” Toni Frallicciardi said. “Every time we do a lesson, I think, you know, how can they hear it, see it, feel it, taste it.”
For Uli Frallicciardi, however, the program not only gives those an “outlet to enjoy but also it helps with their mental health.”
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Through his lessons, Uli Frallicciardi says he has seen his students build self-confidence and understand what it means to be resilient, especially when faced with the daunting task of having to drop in a ramp or even just paddling out to a wave.