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15 Unusual High School Sports

Nothing brings a local community together quite like a big game ... of broomball. Check out these 15 actual high school sports that seemed to have come from out of left field.

1. Orienteering 

Umea Orienteringsklubb, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Races normally require athletes to stay on a strict path; orienteering forces competitors to navigate their way through wooded, uneven terrain using a map to highlight designated “control points,” but leaving the route largely up to them. A number of schools participate in the U.S. Interscholastic Orienteering Championships each year.

2. Bass Fishing

Kentucky is among the states that have recognized bass fishing as a sport. When it comes to competing, two participants from opposing schools board the same boat driven by a nonpartisan adult, and the student with the heaviest haul wins. (The fish are returned to the water.) Advocates for the sport believe it promotes a healthy knowledge of conservation and the environment.

3. Broomball 

Since 1977, Toledo, Ohio high schools have been host to the Greater Toledo Broomball League, which pits teams against one another in a modified version of hockey: players use a broom-shaped stick to control a small ball on ice, though they wear special shoes instead of skates.

4. Judo

Japanese high school students are expected to be well versed in this martial art, an Olympic sport which incorporates throws and chokes. The training can be excessive: In 2013, The New York Times reported on an alarming number of athletes—more than 100—who were alleged to have died doing scholastic judo in the country since 1983. 

5. Robotics 

The Shelton, Connecticut Gaelhawks are among the teams involved in high school robotics, which pits custom constructions against one another in games designed by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). One program had robots stacking containers on top of one another, then filling recycling bins with refuse.

6. Synchronized Swimming

Nearly 700 high school athletes participated in synchronized swimming in 2013, the majority of them females. Teams ranging from two to eight swimmers attempt to sync their movements for a panel of judges.

7. Fencing 

Roughly 3700 students take up close-quarter combat each year. Matches can involve three different kinds of weapons: the epee, saber, or foil. At least one program dates back 50 years.

8. Air Riflery

Hawaii's Mid-Pacific is just one school providing students with ammunition for air riflery, which involves target shooting with a BB gun. Some programs are postal, meaning schools participate by sending in their scores to an administrator.

9. Badminton

Once the scourge of 1950s family picnics everywhere, badminton experienced a renaissance of sorts at the high school level after its 1992 Olympic debut. The NCAA didn’t hop on board, however, so those players looking for scholarship opportunities may have to head overseas. 

10. Quidditch

Harry Potter’s favorite fictional pastime—played with brooms and a deflated volleyball—has infiltrated American schools, albeit with no tackling, which distinguishes it from the International Quidditch rules. Mostly played within athletic clubs, in April, a Roanoke, Virginia school was the first program to be officially acknowledged by The U.S. Quidditch Association.

11. Flag Football 

Susumu Komatsu, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Women denied the opportunity to suit up for varsity football have been increasingly turning toward the non-tackle version, which is gaining popularity in part because it doesn't require expensive equipment.

12. Rodeo

Nebraska students participating in rodeo events usually stick to barrel racing and team roping, though plenty of other programs allow bull riding—provided athletes wear helmets. Perhaps that’s why the National High School Rodeo Association requires its members to purchase their own health insurance plans, even if they already have existing coverage through their parents.

13. Ultimate Frisbee

Over 9000 students practice team-based Frisbee play, which uses a slightly heavier disc than the one collecting rainwater in your backyard.

14. Handball

New York City holds the highest concentration of teen handball players around, but controversy over playing pick-up games for money can see students barred from official competition. 

15. Video Games

A movement is afoot to bring “eSports” to schools by encouraging game-players to organize competitive teams. More than 750 teams across the country play games like League of Legends; for some members, the hope is to obtain a scholarship to one of the colleges offering gaming as a varsity sport.

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The ‘Scully Effect’ Is Real: Female X-Files Fans More Likely to Go Into STEM
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Fox

FBI agent Dana Scully is more than just a role model for remaining professional when a colleague won't stop talking about his vast governmental conspiracy theories. The skeptical doctor played by Gillian Anderson on The X-Files helped inspire women to go into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers, according to a new report [PDF] from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which we spotted at Fast Company.

“In the world of entertainment media, where scientists are often portrayed as white men wearing white coats and working alone in labs, Scully stood out in the 1990s as the only female STEM character in a prominent, prime-time television role,” the report explains. Previously, anecdotal evidence has pointed to the existence of a “Scully effect,” in which the measured TV scientist—with her detailed note-taking, evidence-based approach, and desire to autopsy everything—inspired women to seek out their own science careers. This report provides the hard data.

The Geena Davis Institute surveyed more than 2000 women in the U.S. above the age of 25, a significant portion of whom were viewers of The X-Files (68 percent) and women who had studied for or were in STEM careers (49 percent). While the survey didn’t ask women whether watching Dana Scully on The X-Files directly influenced their decision to be a scientist, the results hint that seeing a character like her on TV regularly did affect them. Women who watched more of the show were more likely to say they were interested in STEM, more likely to have studied a STEM field in college, and more likely to have worked in a STEM field after college.

While it’s hard to draw a direct line of causation there—women who are interested in science might just be more inclined to watch a sci-fi show like The X-Files than women who grow up to be historians—viewers also tended to say Scully gave them positive impressions of women in science. More than half of respondents who were familiar with Scully’s character said she increased their confidence in succeeding in a male-dominated profession. More than 60 percent of the respondents said she increased their belief in the importance of STEM. And when asked to describe her, they were most likely to say she was “smart” and “intelligent” before any other adjective.

STEM fields are still overwhelmingly male, and governments, nonprofits, schools, activists, and some tech companies have been pushing to make the field more diverse by recruiting and retaining more female talent. While the desire to become a doctor or an engineer isn’t the only thing keeping STEM a boy’s club, women also need more role models in the fields whose success and accomplishments they can look up to. Even if some of those role models are fictional.

Now that The X-Files has returned to Fox, perhaps Dana Scully will have an opportunity to shepherd a whole new generation of women into the sciences.

[h/t Fast Company]

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Yale's Insanely Popular Happiness Course Is Now Open to Everyone Online
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iStock

Yale University's happiest course is giving people yet another reason to smile. After breaking registration records, "Psychology and the Good Life" has been repurposed into a free online course anyone can take, Quartz reports.

Psychology professor Laurie Santos debuted the class in the 2018 spring semester, and it's officially the most popular course in the university's 317-year history. About 1200 students, or a quarter of Yale's undergraduate student body, are currently enrolled. Now that a free version of the course has launched on Coursera, the curriculum is about to reach even more learners.

The online "Science of Well-Being" class is led by Santos from her home. Throughout the course, students will learn about happiness from a psychological perspective, including misconceptions about happiness and activities that have been proven to boost life satisfaction. "The purpose of the course is to not only learn what psychological research says about what makes us happy but also to put those strategies into practice," the course description reads.

Each section comes with readings, video lessons, and a quiz, as well as the chance to connect and brainstorm with classmates. After passing the assignments, students come away from the six-week course with a certificate and hopefully a broader understanding of the factors that contribute to a happy life. You can visit the course page over at Coursera to enroll.

[h/t Quartz]

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