At Hopewell Central High School, three classes completed an inaugural “Cell Phone Challenge” issued by teacher Gary Nucera in Driver’s Ed. The sophomore students were challenged by Nucera to put aside their cell phones for a class period every day. The challenge evolved from a Hopewell Valley Regional School District goal to reduce the use of cellphones in classrooms. Nucera created the challenge in connection to the larger lesson of the dangers of driving while using a phone, as his students will be earning their learner’s permits in a short time.
“The average travel time in NJ is about 25 minutes,” said Nucera. “We sit in class for 52 minutes at a time and I said, ‘Let’s see if you can just double that.’ We are so used to practicing a bad habit, of being on our phones, and then when they’re going to get this responsibility [of driving]… to be on the phone behind the wheel… all those implications.”
This was the first year that Nucera challenged his class to put aside their cell phones. Though the immediate goal was to earn pizza at the end of the marking period, the overall goal was to encourage the students to think about their cell phone use, particularly while driving. Nucera wanted the students to learn how to practice the good habit of putting their phone aside while driving and to understand the serious implications of using their phones while driving. The students embraced the challenge and even encouraged their classmates to put their phones aside at the beginning of class.
Sophomores Kelsey Fithen and Caroline Herbert were part of the winning classes. “Mr. Nucera was making the point that we could go 50 minutes without using our phones,” said Caroline.
“It was extremely hard, because I’m so attached to my phone,” said Kelsey. “But then you want to do good for your other students, because it gets them pizza.”
At the end of the challenge, two of the three classes were deemed winners and earned pizza for lunch. Nucera will continue this challenge every year and has encouraged his fellow teachers to try their own version of the cell-phone challenge in their classrooms.