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Vikings, start your engines!

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Students from Royerton visited Blue River Valley Elementary School Thursday to experience the mobile 500 Festival Education Program set up in the gymnasium. Here, the kids got a quick picture with a retired IndyCar that actually raced in Speedway.
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Fourth-graders at Blue River Valley Elementary School got to experience the thrill of waving the famous checkered flag Thursday when the 500 Festival Foundation brought The Greatest Spectacle in Racing to Viking Country.
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Fourth-graders got to feel the different materials that have made up the Indianapolis 500 track — including the famous Brickyard — during a visit Thursday from the 500 Festival & Indianapolis 500 Education Program.

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

Thursday was a great day to be a Blue River Valley Elementary School fourth grader.

Not only was it Pajama Day, it was also the day the gym was taken over by the history and science behind the famous Indianapolis 500.

Fourth grade is when Indiana students learn about the Hoosier state. And there are few people who hear “Indiana” without thinking about the Indy 500.

The Indianapolis 500 Education Program teaches fourth graders about the Indy 500 and the annual 500 Festival and the important role they’ve played in the state’s history and culture.

Part of the program includes mobile trips to schools around the state. Mobile trips help turn classroom lessons into action at interactive, hands-on educational stations.

Due to demand, these trips are assigned through a lottery system.

BRV teacher Emily Jenkins has tried to bring the 500 Education Program to Blue River for years.

This year, they won the lottery.

“We were excited to host it and hope to host again in the future,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said a lot of her students had heard about the Indy 500, so they were thrilled when a real IndyCar rolled out onto the parking lot.

The mobile experience was more than just a photo shoot, though.

The Indianapolis 500 Education Program set up stations around the gym to give the Vikings a better idea of everything that goes into making the Indy 500 happen every year.

There were stations about the science of the IndyCars themselves and about the drivers’ safety equipment.

Indy 500 Princess McKayla Tucker taught the Vikings about the different types of flags used during the race. Tucker, a junior at University of Indianapolis, even let the kids try their hand at waving the checkered flag.

The kids learned about different careers in the IndyCar industry, as well as the history and traditions at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

At the “Numbers of the 500” station, each team got to pretend they owned a racing team. They learned how sponsorships work and how much it costs to keep a car on the track.

Blue River Valley Elementary School shared the mobile trip with other fourth graders, too. They welcomed students from Royerton Elementary School up in Delaware County.

Jenkins thanked all the parents and volunteers who helped make the day go smoothly.

The 500 Festival and Indianapolis 500 Education Program, presented by Indiana University Health, was launched in 2004. Since then, it has impacted more than 325,000 Indiana students and 12,000 classrooms. In 2018, 360 schools participated in the Education Program, impacting more than 26,000 Indiana fourth graders in nearly every Indiana county.