SCOTTSDALE – An hour before the final bell rang at 2:40 p.m. on Tuesday, a group of 25 Greenway Middle School eighth graders were asked to report to the library. The “Hockey Scholars” had finished the NHL’s Future Goals digital education course on STEM: science, technology, engineering and math subjects.
For their achievement, the students shuffled from the classroom to meet two players from the Arizona Coyotes.
Lawson Crouse, 19, and Jakob Chychrun, 18, are the youngest on the team, with the latter being the youngest defenseman in the NHL.
Sitting around clusters of laptops, the students listened as the rookies, who aren’t much older than them, explain that math and hockey aren’t so different.
“In math, there’s one correct answer,” Crouse said. “In a hockey game, there’s quick decisions you have to make. One is going to be the right one and one is going to be the wrong one. Like math class, you have to use your mind to figure out the correct answer right off the bat.”
The bridge between hockey and academia is the foundation of the Future Goals program. Created by the league and the NHL Players’ Association, the lessons target fourth to eighth grade students. Schools don’t have to shell out money because the course is free.
“I think in any sport you want to support educational programs,” said Olivia Campos, community relations director for the Coyotes. “If you think about it, there’s a lot of science that goes into playing hockey and the ice rink and how all that works together. The teachers here are amazing and wanted to have this opportunity for their students to be able to use the program.”
EverFi, the program’s software developer, designed 12 online modules to bring students to the arena. Pucks are banked off the boards, enforcing the concepts of angles and the laws of reflection. Players sprint up the ice for students to calculate speed at different distances.
The simulation intrigued Greenway honors science teacher Eric Jerome, who began investigating the program in October. He played around with it, believing it would be a great transition between his matter and motion units, and presented it to his class in November.
“Knowing that someone in real life does this is what got the kids excited about it,” Jerome said. “They’re like ‘Wait, this isn’t just something from a textbook?’ They don’t believe us when we tell them it’s in a textbook.”
For two to three weeks every day, Jerome’s students knew that they would be on the computers playing with temperature to get the right combination of friction and comfort for players to skate seamlessly on the ice.
“Now, when I refer back to talking about change of states, I say, ‘Remember when we talked about the ice?’ and they’re like, ‘oh yeah, the molecules, they’re moving slower.’ I’ve seen them understanding, grasping concepts better.”
Tuesday, Crouse and Chychrun moved from computer to computer, occasionally stopping to lean over a shoulder to take a peek at a student’s work. But they weren’t there just to talk about distance formulas or kinetic energy.
The players were hopeful they could help the students beyond the classroom.
“I have a saying with my dad called ‘put a log on the fire,’ ” Crouse said. “When someone tells me that I can’t do something, it’s as easy as it sounds — put a log on the fire. What happens when you do that? The fire ignites. There’s going to be people out there that don’t want you to succeed.
“Don’t listen to them.”