The atmosphere inside Honda Center this week was electric, as the Anaheim Ducks welcomed 16,000 students and educators from nearly 200 local schools for the club's 20th annual First Flight Field Trip.
This year's theme was "Light the Lamp" and featured curriculum focused on electricity and the science behind how the red goal light flashes after a hockey goal is scored.
As the largest initiative of the Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E. (Scholastic Curriculum of Recreation & Education) Program, the First Flight Field Trip event and accompanying classroom materials help engage third through sixth grade students in exploring science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) concepts through a variety of problem solving activities.
Long before the students arrived at Honda Center, they explored the topic of electricity in their classrooms with workbooks and electronics kits provided to the participating schools by the Ducks S.C.O.R.E. Program. From circuit boards to conductors to resistors, the students were challenged to use engineering-based thinking and hands-on solutions to light their own goal lamp.
The result? Classrooms of students who couldn't wait to get to Honda Center this week to see the science of hockey come to life.
"My students have been looking forward to this since September," said Natasha Rios, fourth grade teacher at Del Cerro Elementary in Mission Viejo.
As first time attendees, Del Cerro as a school has jumped all in with its participation in the Ducks S.C.O.R.E. Program. In addition to First Flight, fourth grade students at the school just completed the Street Hockey physical education program, as well as the Reading is the Goal initiative, which challenges fourth graders to read for 30 consecutive days.
Rios has been thrilled to introduce all the Ducks S.C.O.R.E. Program has to offer at Del Cerro, and she is seeing positive results as her students are engaging in the hockey-themed experiences.
"It's been such a great experience for them to not only have the street hockey component, but also the science component," Rios said. "And the fact that we've been able to tie this into our NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) for them, they are so excited about science and circuits and electricity. Anytime that we can support that love for learning is great."
Prior to entering the arena, Del Cerro students joined the others in attendance outside Honda Center where they explored the "The Playground" portion of the event. Local educational organizations and corporations, along with 350 volunteers, partnered with the Ducks to provide more than 60 hands-on exhibits supporting the theme of electricity.
First time exhibitor LEGO Education was on hand with robotics and traditional unplugged build opportunities, where students could explore building ice rinks and ways to power them - wind turbines, power plants and solar power farms - solutions that could easily incorporate LEGO's sensors, motors and smart hubs as another way to "light the lamp."
"What an amazing way to get all these opportunities in front of kids, to get them to learn and experience and have a good time," said Paulette Donnellon, Enterprise Account Executive at LEGO Education. "And that's what it's all about."
This year, for the first time ever, event partners San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and Edison International provided $25,000 and $15,000, respectively, transportation grants for under resourced schools.
Edison International, also first time exhibitors, donated more than $10,000 for classroom activity kits to ensure students could work through the projects in the workbook prior to attending the event.
"We wanted to make sure that kids were able to participate at today's event because this is something you have to really experience to get the most from it," said Susan Cox, spokesperson for Southern California Edison. "There's a lot more to electricity than just flipping a switch, so this is a great opportunity for the kids to learn about science outside of the classroom and in an entertaining way. It's nice to take science, which can be scary and a little intimidating to a lot of kids, and present it to them in a way that they can understand it and have fun with it."
Inside Honda Center, "The Classroom" portion of First Flight was on full display as Wild Wing and Anaheim Ducks in-arena host Sammy Donado were joined by several Ducks players on the ice as they led the students through the "Light the Lamp" workbook.
The high-voltage presentation saw three teams of players - Team Black, Team Orange and Team White - take turns using skills competitions to illustrate the properties of electricity while they assembled a large-scale circuit board.
For Del Cerro fourth grader Olivia Hice, seeing the pages of her workbook brought to life by the Ducks players helped her understand electricity in new ways.
"It was a great opportunity to learn, and I love how they kept active with the crowd," Hice said. "I think it also helped those who maybe didn't get it before, now they understand it more clearly. They showed us how different forms of electricity can be found in many places. It was really fun."
Hice's classmate, 10-year old Grady Koedel, enjoyed seeing professional hockey players teach about the science behind the sport.
"It was fun how they used hockey to help us learn about electricity, and it was super cool seeing all of the players and cheering for them," Koedel said.
Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, a long-time participant in First Flight, spoke to the importance behind reaching this many kids through such a unique setting.
"It's very exciting for the kids to be a part of something like this," Getzlaf said, "and it's a way to connect with the community and have the kids come out and experience a different way of learning."
At the conclusion of the event, the Del Cerro fourth graders came away with a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience, and Rios can't wait to share this "classroom" environment with her future students.
"The program was amazing," Rios said. "I loved the energy and seeing not only my own students be so excited, but seeing a whole arena full of students who have been experiencing the same thing we have.
"The Ducks are a very special team, and they really pour back into the community. I'm so impressed that they support education this much. They provide so many opportunities for students, and the fact that they have all of these schools come, free of charge, is really remarkable. What an amazing experience."
For more information on the Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E. Program, visit ducksscore.com.