“Hockey Scholar” kicks off at Avalon

Pittsburgh Penguin Beau Bennett points out some of the Hockey Scholar program features to Avalon sixth grader Mariah Forsythe, who thinks the program is "super fun to work on," and at the same time, she said, she has learned a lot. The module she liked the best was on kinetic energy, where she had to figure out the force of the puck hitting the ice surface. Photo by Tom Steiner for The Citizen

In many ways, last Tuesday was the perfect day for penguins to be out and about. Some snow, temperature in the 20s, an even colder wind-chill factor made the trip to Avalon Elementary a comfortable journey.

No. Not penguins on the loose from the Pittsburgh Aviary. The other Pittsburgh Penguins, the ones from the NHL team coming on strong in the Metropolitan Division.

Three of those notable players, Nick Bonino, Eric Fehr and Beau Bennett stopped by to see how students were doing with a digital learning program that uses hockey as a vehicle to foster further education in digital social responsibilities and to allow students to develop skills in science, technology, engineering and math [STEM].

In September of last year, the NHL and the National Hockey League Players' Association announced the launch of "Hockey Scholar," a hockey-themed STEM education course that is part of the NHL and NHLPA Future Goals Program.

"Since its launch in September 2014, Future Goals has reached more than 375,000 students throughout the United States and Canada across 3,500 schools, generating more than 1.5 million hours of STEM-learning opportunities," according to NHL sources.

The course "…takes students on an exciting educational journey with the goal of winning a virtual Stanley Cup. As they guide their team, students complete 12 learning modules that educate them and test their knowledge on core STEM concepts covering data analysis, geometry, life science, and physical science. These topics come to life through real hockey examples that include the dynamics of the ice surface, equipment design, athletic performance, and geometric and energy considerations, all relating to how the game is played."

When the course was launched, Bill Daly, NHL Deputy Commissioner explained, "The free Hockey Scholar on-line course is a great way to engage and educate youth, pairing the excitement of hockey with the importance of STEM skills."

Avalon Elementary School principal Joseph Peacock explained how the program -- as well as the celebrity sports guests -- made their way to the school. "Mrs. [Sherrill] Farmer, sixth grade math/science teacher received an e-mail from EverFi, the program creator, in September and attended a training session at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit on Sept. 23. The Hockey Scholar program was instituted into her classroom in January."

Farmer said that the program has scored a goal with the sixth graders. "The students have been very excited to use the Hockey Scholar program. It is a great program for all levels, as it walks students through each module by starting off with a simple beginning level and progresses to a more difficult task."

And why did the Penguins find their way to Avalon on such a chilly day?

"The main goal was to create a video advertisement that can be used to get the program into other schools," Farmer said. "We are excited to be one of the Pittsburgh area schools that are piloting the program, and we are very proud to have been chosen by the Penguins to host the "kick-off" assembly at our school. It was an experience our students will never forget."

A demonstration of Hockey Scholar may be found at https://vimeo.com/132331177.