Some Grayslake Central High School students probably never thought they'd have a class that paired sumo wrestling with Newton's Laws of Motion.
But that was the case for physical science classes taught by Katie Titus and Shari Engberg.
For the third consecutive year, Engberg and Titus used their creative juices to thematically teach Newton's three laws of motion to the pupils. They linked each law to sumo wrestling, such as how for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Titus said she's always thinking of how to put a new twist on her physical science class. When it came to memorization of the periodic table of elements, students in the fourth-year teacher's class wrote jokes and performed a comedy routine.
"For the laws of motion," Titus said, "the best thing I could think of was sumo wrestling."
Students in the December unit earned a chance to sumo wrestle in a monthlong classroom challenge between Team Blue and Team Red. During the chapter, the student teams sat under respective red and blue sumo belts, also known as mawashi, that hung from a classroom ceiling.
Wrestlers were selected based on homework scores, classroom participation and other positive actions. The students grappled on a mat in rented foam-filled sumo suits in Grayslake Central.
Titus' use of sumo with Newton's Laws of Motion was a hit with her students, who clearly learned something judging by their comments.
"I was excited the whole chapter we learned about sumo," said junior Patrick Fontanetta, "because I really wanted to wrestle. I think I won that day because I let the 'tiger out of the cage' and used my mass to create a force that accelerated my opponent."
Said sophomore Jermaine Jackson: "I think that I won in the sumo tournament because I have more inertia. I like using themes in science because it makes things easier to understand."
Titus said her classroom innovations don't come from attending education conferences or other events for teachers.
"It's literally just my sick mind," she joked.