It was "Cool Like Ice" at Honda Center this week as the Anaheim Ducks hosted more than 16,000 local students and educators from 170 schools for the club's 17th annual First Flight Field Trip.
As the largest component of the award-winning Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E. (Scholastic Curriculum of Recreation & Education) Program, the free event, along with supporting classroom materials and project modules, aims to encourage third through sixth graders to explore elements of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) through learning about the sport of hockey.

This year's theme entitled "Cool Like Ice" introduced students to the science behind the design and construction of an ice hockey rink and the important role ice engineers play in making sure the ice surface is prepared properly.
Having utilized the "Cool Like Ice" theme a few years ago, this version of the curriculum was revamped to more intentionally address Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and project-based learning. The Ducks partnered with organizations such as the Orange County Department of Education and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) to achieve that goal.
"This is a theme they had used in the past, but they wanted to delve deeper into it and have the students get the most out of it," said NSTA Senior Associate, Professional Learning Relationships, Alison Thalmann. "I love that they are revisiting that theme and using sports as a way to motivate both kids and parents, to show that science education is just as important as reading and writing."
Participating schools received workbooks prior to the event that allowed teachers to guide their students through several science concepts involved in the creation of an ice rink including the states of matter and heat transfer.
Fourth grade teacher at St. Columban School in Garden Grove, Marisa Sabala, used the workbook to broadly review the concepts with her students before attending First Flight and plans to continue the learning process after the event by incorporating the activities in the workbook into classroom lab projects.
"What I try to do is take the theme that they are using each year, and I look at what we are doing in our own science curriculum. For instance, this topic aligns with learning about the states of matter," Sabala said. "Then I introduce it and bring it out in different ways to the students."
In her fourth year attending First Flight with her fourth grade class, Sabala has seen how a fun learning environment can bring science alive for her students.
"They love it, and they love coming here," Sabala said. "It's great that the Ducks do this because it makes it more real for the kids. They come away with more of a love for science and engineering and are more ready to be hands-on."
Upon arrival at First Flight, attendees were greeted in the Honda Center parking lot by the "Playground" portion of the event, where educational organizations and corporate partners, such as Discovery Cube OC & LA, Microsoft and Toyo Tires, hosted more than 70 interactive stations and exhibits designed to supplement the workbook lessons and give the students some hands-on learning opportunities.


Representatives from the NHL and NHLPA Future Goals - Hockey Scholar Program were on hand to guide students through an "uncovering the ice" exercise where they learned about calculating the area of an ice rink. The Hockey Scholar Program, which is an online digital course that focuses on teaching STEM concepts using the game of hockey, was also made available to all participating schools as a post-event teaching module.
"Our goal is to connect the dots from the digital experience the students have in the classroom to real life experiences here today at First Flight," said Hockey Scholar representative, Veronica Sander. "It's been awesome to see how committed the Ducks are to STEM education."
Nearly 250 volunteers assisted the kids as they explored the exhibits, including students from Canyon High School who are part of a class that is helping to prepare the next generation of science teachers. Science/STEM TOSA for Orange Unified School District, Julie Roney, hoped the high school students would see that real world teaching often happens beyond the classroom.
"This is part of the hands-on, authentic experience of teaching," Roney said. "So when they're working here, they get the skills to interact with the students."
Inside the arena for the "Classroom" portion of the field trip, students were treated to an Anaheim Ducks practice and then became "ice engineers" for the day. Hosts Kent French and Wild Wing, along with several Ducks players including Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa and Andrew Cogliano, participated in demonstrations that illustrated the workbook curriculum.
From making ice cream as a way to teach heat transfer to showing how friction on the ice impacts the movement of the puck, the players helped bring the "Cool Like Ice" concepts to life for the enthusiastic kids.
"This is the highlight of fourth grade at our school," said fourth grade teacher at Arroyo Vista Elementary in Rancho Santa Margarita, Robyn Justl. "It's amazing to see how much the Anaheim Ducks Foundation does for the community and its students. The kids love it, and sometimes they don't even realize they are learning science. They're so excited about seeing hockey, and it's so much fun."
Added Arroyo Vista fourth grader, Audrey Sanderson, "It's cool that the Ducks can help people learn about hockey, but learn about science at the same time."
The field trip concluded with the Ducks participating in a skills competition, featuring Longest Shot, Hardest Shot and Relay Race events, with the "White Team" of Nick Ritchie, Cam Fowler, Corey Perry and Korbinian Holzer, captained by Patrick Eaves, coming away with the victory.
Having seen the event evolve over the years, Cogliano acknowledged how learning about science through hockey is both educational and a great way to introduce kids to the sport.
"They get to come and not only watch us and see us] do some skills events, but also be proactive in terms of learning," Cogliano said. "The Ducks do a good job in terms of trying to make it all-in-one in terms of learning and having a fun experience. Hopefully we did that."
For Bieksa, whose son was in attendance with his fourth grade class, the end goal of the day was to have fun and be inspired.
"Obviously it's a lot of fun, and it's high energy," Bieksa said. "We're trying to make it a fun experience, but also a learning experience by throwing a little science aspect into it. I just hope everybody enjoyed it. I know we do."
And for the 16,000 screaming students, they discovered that learning about science can happen anywhere, even at a hockey rink.
"I love science," said St. Columban fourth grader, Phillip Nguyen. "This is a great opportunity for kids to learn about stuff they might not have known before.
"And it's my first time seeing hockey. It was awesome."
For more information on the award-winning Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E. Program, visit

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