Racing to learn: MSDLT after-school club teaches about motor careers in a fun way


Indianapolis is known for auto racing — and the world-famous Indy 500 is fast approaching. Indian Creek Elementary School teacher LaMonica Henson hopes to leverage that popularity to spark students’ interest in motor engineering and other racing-related careers.

Henson leads a car-racing club for fourth- through sixth-graders, which meets a couple times a week at Indian Creek Elementary, 10833 E. 56th St. The school is part of the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township.

Henson said the idea started when she talked with someone whose boyfriend was a motor engineer — a career she wasn’t aware of.

“And I thought, if I don’t know, I bet our kids don’t know,” she said. “Then I did some research and, like, IUPUI has it and Indiana University has that major. ELHAS is my son’s nonprofit, and we sponsor the club — we sponsor STEM experiences here — we partner with Indian Creek because I teach here. And I’m like, we need to learn all about racing. The kids need to know what this is, in case they’re interested. ELHAS believes in getting the kids early, in elementary school — get them hooked, and then they can pursue it if they’re interested.”

ELHAS stands for Every Leaf Has a Stem. Henson said her son, who studies engineering, started the organization to help kids learn about opportunities in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math. She herself knows very little about engineering,

“That’s the way my clubs go,” she said. “I get curious and then I learn about it.”

Henson also leads the school’s gardening club, with an indoor hydroponic garden that grows lettuce in the Makerspace and outdoor raised beds that soon will be planted.

She hopes the students in her clubs also get curious and want to learn, she said.

After the school dismissal bell rings at around 2:30 p.m., club members wander into the school’s Makerspace and pile their backpacks in a corner. They take a few minutes for the all-important snack — you don’t want hangry kids — and then Henson and the students get some remote-controlled cars ready to take to the outdoor track, which the students built themselves behind the school building a couple of years ago.

It was the first time since the end of winter that they were able to race cars outside. Until then, they had practiced their remote-control skills by flying drones indoors, Henson said, maneuvering through a hula-hoop racetrack placed high on the ceiling.

Fifth-grader Lilian Korengel said it was fun to race drones.

“First, we learn how to (control) them and then we start racing them through all the hoops,” she said. “And then, one time, we tried to tag each other with the drones — like tag the other drone with a drone.”

She said it was challenging to learn at first, but after she got the hang of the controls, it wasn’t that difficult.

Indian Creek Elementary School Principal Kevin Kemper stopped in for a quick visit before everyone headed out to the racetrack, and said Henson is an incredible teacher.

“She is single-handedly transforming this building,” he said. “She has the (remote control) racetrack, she has the (indoor) drone racetrack, she has the hydroponics — not only there but throughout the entire building — and then she has the community garden, and then every week she comes to me with another idea. She is phenomenal and she’s always trying to find more opportunities.”

Henson said the clubs are meant to be fun, but she tries to mix in learning whenever she can.

“This just lays that foundation, you know — if they’re interested in continuing to pursue it as they get older, that’s good, but we’re really just trying to lay a foundation,” she said.

Out at the track, club members took turns racing their cars around the dirt track, sometimes crashing into the barriers or each other’s cars. They were learning about momentum, electronics, velocity and physics — and smiling the whole time.

For more about ELHAS, visit

NASCAR driver to visit racing club

NASCAR driver Zachary Tinkle was scheduled to visit with the Indian Creek Elementary School racing club May 3 but had to postpone the visit when he was called in to a race in Kansas.

Tinkle rescheduled the visit for May 17, when he will talk about what it’s like to be a professional racecar driver.

Tinkle, who has been racing professionally for about 10 years, is based in Speedway.

For more, visit