Hockey came to Capitol Hill Wednesday morning with the 2019 Hockey Day on the Hill. The bipartisan Congressional Hockey Caucus held a congressional briefing in conjunction with the NHL to discuss how hockey is growing its impact through a connection to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education in schools.
The NHL showcased its Future Goals program, which is an ongoing partnership with education technology company EVERFI. Backed by a $20 million commitment by the NHL, the program has engaged over two million students in the country since 2014.
After the briefing, students from two local schools had the opportunity to try out a few of the EVERFI lesson modules as well as a hands-on beginner hockey skills clinic with Olympic gold medalist Haley Skarupa.
Congressmen Larry Bucshon, Pete Stauber, John Katko, and Tom Emmer each spoke about the life skills they’ve found in hockey and why they are passionate about bringing hockey into more lives through the Future Goals initiative.
Kim Davis, the NHL’s executive vice president in charge of social impact, growth, and legislative affairs, emphasized that there are many roads to fandom, and that the NHL would have to be innovative to reach new communities in a landscape of shifting demographics.
“This Future Goals program is about how do we create the next generation of knowledge workers? And what we know about the next generation of knowledge workers is that its going to be a more diverse group than we’ve ever seen in the history of any of our generations. So to be able to use the sport of hockey as a tool to develop a STEM curriculum in partnership with EVERFI is really a dream come true.”
Not only does Davis view hockey as a catalyst for science and math learning, but also an opportunity to grow new fans of the sport. She described a pathway where kids engaging in hockey through school can engage their parents and families into becoming hockey fans too.
“This is one of the many tools we have in terms of building social impact as a way to build our sport,” said Davis.
Davis also outlined the three barriers that she seeks to address throughout the league’s programs: economic, infrastructure, and culture barriers.
On the topic of infrastructure barriers, moderator Frank Thorp V of NBC News raised the topic of Fort Dupont Ice Arena, whose struggle to find funding for rink renovations and new construction have been news this week.
Davis spoke with familiarity on Fort Dupont’s history and its connection with Willie O’Ree, who was in the audience.
“[The NHL’s commitment to Fort Dupont] is an example of restoring ice in a place where the infrastructure is failing, the economics aren’t there–putting support around that is important to our sport,” said Davis.
In the DC, Maryland, Virginia area, Future Goal’s STEM program has reached 90,825 students since 2014, with 32% of those students from economically disadvantaged schools.
Tom Davidson, the CEO of EVERFI, praised the NHL’s commitment to reach communities that wouldn’t normally have access.
“They stepped up and said, ‘These have to be in schools. This can’t be one more area where programs find their ways to the school districts with means.’ And the schools in rural areas and in high density poverty areas wouldn’t have access to this. And the fact that the league and the player’s association stepped up and paid 100% of the cost for these programs to go into schools that would never have them, to me…is the most important and significant contribution to the education system that I’ve seen in 11 years,” Davidson said.
EVERFI also rolled out a similar partnership with MLB in 2017, focused on grade school math and reading.
The students of Fredericksburg’s Thornburg Middle School and DC’s H.D. Cooke Elementary school tried out the hockey-themed curriculum during the event. This included modules on measuring angles, speed and distance formulas, coordinate planes, force and friction, potential and kinetic energy, and phases of matter.
The students also experienced some hands-on learning with ball hockey, taught by staff members from the Capitals and USA Hockey Olympic gold medalist Haley Skarupa.
Part of the Future Goals program involves field trips to NHL arenas and visits from Capitals players to the schools. This serves to connect the students’ learning to the real world and to the sport of hockey.
Gritty was an unexpected celebrity figure at Hockey Day on the Hill, interacting with all of the kids and other attendees. His antics included tying up a Penguins fan with an electric cord and yanking a congressman’s Blackhawks jersey over his head during a photo opp.
Thornburg Middle School teacher Kathy Moore said that she’s seen her students understand more about the sport of hockey after completing the Future Goals modules.
Student Jyneece Conway-Layman learned about how different curves and sizes of sticks can have an effect on a shot. Takiah Bennet said she understands more about measuring angles with a protractor after seeing it demonstrated in a module about passing angles.
With the continued Future Goals program, the connection between hockey and STEM education may be closer than you’d think.
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