**Terry McLaurin** likes to joke that his football uniform is his Batman suit. When it's not a game day and McLaurin can hang up his helmet, he finds himself embracing the very best parts of himself, and it has nothing to do with football.
With about a 12-hour turnaround from his touchdown against the Rams, McLaurin landed from Los Angeles, caught a few short hours of sleep and headed to the Children's Science Center. McLaurin's arrival was warmly greeted by more than 60 students from James McHenry Elementary School, faculty chaperones and talented representatives from the science center.
In partnership with Northwest Federal Credit Union and the Washington Commanders, the students were able to have a day of experiential learning, bonding and making lasting, important memories on the grounds of confidence and empowerment.
For McLaurin, his favorite part was being able to be a kid amongst the next generation of ambition and talent. A close second though, the slime-making station.
"It wasn't like I was a football player, I was a kid," McLaurin said. "I'm just Terry every other day besides gameday. And to get to be with the kids, they bring out that kid side of me and just make me feel like myself. That's why I'm so driven to be a part of their lives. That's always gonna be my goal because they're the future. You never know what's going to be inspired from them by doing these things."
The students from James McHenry were brought on what was many of their first field trips and left with Commander's swag, toys, and an unforgettable experience with an important role-model.
"They are so excited to go on any field trip, but this is the first one of the school year so they were extra excited," said Assistant Principal Caretha Henneghan. "They were screaming when they saw the buses outside. They knew they were going to be doing experiments and were so excited."
The extra layer of surprise was when McLaurin pulled up a seat next to them at the slime-making station.
From here, the Children's Science Center ran a seamless, special morning for the students as they had the chance to shift in between four special hands-on learning experiences. And for the science center, making STEM fun is what it's all about.
"We are all about making STEM learning fun and accessible, and think it's so important for the future," said Executive Director of the Children's Science Center Adalene "Nene" Spivy. "It's not just for the scientists and engineers of the future, but for all of us to have these skills. So we want to make it experiential so that way when they're in the classrooms, they'll remember the fun components of science. We want kids to grow up with a science center in their community and we haven't had this hands-on science center in Northern Virginia."
The passion and love for education continue for the Children's Science Center as they collaborate with the state of Virginia on their new, expansive science center breaking ground in northern Virginia next year.
The kids had the chance to work with McLaurin on science projects, and the enjoyment of the morning was mutual. His contribution to these experiences comes back to the center of what he aims to do with the Terry McLaurin Foundation.
"I think kids have a different outlook on life than adults," McLaurin said. "When you have interactive things where they're able to collaborate with their peers, it's the best. I used to love field trips and to have one where you can also learn is very cool. And for me to get to be a part of that was so special."
While things for McLaurin are much different on his day-to-day work schedule, and the activities for the students are much different when they're in the classroom, this experience allowed both parties to simply be kids.
The connection back to the joy of learning and connecting with those around them made for an incredibly special morning at the Children's Science Center that left students, teachers and McLaurin filled with joy.