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Hockey scholars

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
Daniel Sedin and Radim Vrbata walked into the gymnasium at Lord Selkirk Elementary School Tuesday afternoon and the explosion of cheering rivaled that of the Kansas City Royals World Series parade.

Thirty minutes earlier, it was quite the opposite.

Sedin and Vrbata visited Lord Selkirk Elementary, an English and French Immersion school home to almost 700 kindergarten to grade 7 students, to help launch Hockey Scholar, a new hockey-themed educational course as part of the NHL & NHLPA Future Goals Program.

When they walked into a computer lab on the second floor, the reception was flat at best.

The room was silent, the students distracted.

“Is it always this quiet?” Vrbata asked a student.

“When we’re using this program it is,” he replied, “it’s fun!”

Learning can be fun, we’ve all heard this before, but Future Goals ensures it’s fun. Launched in September 2014, the program has already reached over 375,000 students across the United States and Canada in 3,500 schools and yielded over 1.5 million hours of STEM learning opportunities.

As Sedin and Vrbata made their way around the classroom observing students use the program, one thing became clear: they were too busy using hockey to learn to pay any attention to the professional hockey players beside them.

Whoa.

“This is unbelievable,” said Vrbata, watching one of the students design the flex of a hockey stick blade. “We didn’t have anything like this when I was in school, not even close. It’s a fun way, especially if they are really into hockey, for them to learn. It doesn’t seem like work at all, you learn through fun games.”

Vrbata has a six-and-a-half-year-old son, in grade one, who “would be all over this, just like I would have been!”

Sedin thinks his eldest kids, ages seven and 10, will also enjoy this sweet spot where technology and learning meet hockey.

“We didn’t even have computers when I went to school,” laughed Sedin. “It’s easier to learn with something like that. You get more involved and you’re learning without even realizing you are. Even if they’re tough questions, because of the platform, it’s easier for them to understand.”

The Hockey Scholar course takes students on an exciting educational journey with the goal of winning a virtual Stanley Cup. Students will guide the team by completing twelve learning modules that educate them and test their knowledge on core STEM concepts covering data analysis, geometry, life science and physical science topics. These topics come to life through hockey simulations that include the dynamics of the ice surface, equipment design, athletic performance, and geometric and energy considerations to how the game is played.

Hockey Scholar maps to provincial math and science standards and is available to all elementary and middle schools in British Columbia.

The visit ended with the Canucks taking part in a deafening school assembly where more of the Future Goals program was on display, this time quizzing students on everything from the radius of a faceoff circle, to the size of a hockey rink.

“I knew almost all the answers,” joked Sedin. “Ya, ya, me too,” added Vrbata, laughing.

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