Kathy Moore, a teacher from the school in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, brought 19 students in grades 5-8 with her to Rayburn House Office Building on Wednesday for a demonstration of the NHL and NHL Players' Association's Future Goals program and a floor hockey clinic as part of Hockey Day on the Hill.
"They were so excited to come here," Moore said. "They have not been able to stay calm for the last week."
Six fifth-graders from H.D. Cooke Elementary School in Washington also attended the demonstration of software on tablets and laptops that uses ice hockey to teach and increase interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).
Moore, a Washington Capitals fan and season ticketholder, has used the software developed by the education technology company EVERI with her students for the past five years.
With an investment of $20 million, the NHL and the NHLPA have provided the Future Goals program to schools across North America at no cost, reaching more than 2.2 million students since 2014.
"Kids when they hear STEM … they always think of it as engineering and math; they don't think of it as a fun thing to do," Moore said. "So as soon as this program came out, I've used some other EVERFI programs and I said, 'Oh my gosh, this is the Washington Capitals. It's hockey. This will get kids interested,' and it truly has. I have girls interested. They've been watching hockey games and they've never been interested in hockey before."
Prior to the Future Goals demonstration and floor hockey clinic in the Rayburn House foyer, Moore participated in a congressional briefing on the Future Goals program hosted by the bipartisan Congressional Hockey Caucus. Frank Thorp V of NBC News moderated a discussion about the program that included Moore,
NHL Executive Vice President of Social Impact, Growth and Legislative Affairs Kim Davis, NHLPA special assistant to the executive director Mathieu Schneider, and co-founder and CEO of EVERFI Tom Davidson.
"To be able to bring otherwise mundane, boring classroom subjects and to show how they can be used in everyday life, when we started to talk about these things, it just came to life," Schneider said. "The feedback that we've gotten from the teachers and the administrators and all the schools has been tremendous across the board and the great thing is we've been able to do this throughout North America."
Davidson described how the software uses situations in ice hockey, such as skate alignment and the curves on stick blades, as fun teaching tools.
"I want to just let you know how exciting it is to go into communities and watch the lightbulb go on in kids' heads when they're aligning these two things … to watch their excitement around that as they realize through the gamification of everything how they're learning about certain angular functions in math and statistical analysis and data signs," Davidson said. "It is a once in generation thing and I'm grateful for the League and the [NHLPA] for making it happen."
In addition to helping children learn, it has increased interest in the sport.
"I always say there are many roads to fandom," Davis said. "Some of them are straight and many of them are crooked, but at the end of the day if we are in a position in be in communities, helping to build those communities and inspiring people through the sport of hockey, that's ultimately going to lead to fandom."
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Jyneece Conway-Leyman, an eighth-grader at Thornburg Middle School, said she wasn't a big hockey fan but has since become more interested in the sport by what she's learned, thanks to Future Goals.
"It's a different subject, I guess you could say," said Conway-Leynam, who wants to be a mechanical engineer. "It's like a hockey subject, and I feel that you get more in depth into what hockey is. You think hockey, oh, you're just taking a stick and hitting a puck. But in reality, it's more difficult than that. You have to have better precisions and stuff like that."
With assistance from Haley Skarupa, a forward on the U.S. National Women's Team who won a gold medal at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, Conway-Leyman also learned Wednesday about stick handling and shooting. Capitals mascot Slapshot, Philadelphia Flyers mascot Gritty and New Jersey Devils mascot N.J. Devil added to the fun.
"I've never seen a professional sport get more involved in what is a critically-needed area of our education system or society, the STEM issue," said Rep. John Katko of New York, who is co-chairman of the Congressional Hockey Caucus. "I think it's fantastic. We have slipped so far on the world stage as far as STEM competency, and things like this can help bring it back."
Hockey Day on the Hill wrapped up in the evening with the annual Congressional Hockey Challenge between the Lawmakers and Lobbyists at Capital One Arena.
Proceeds from the game will benefit the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club, an inner-city youth program in Washington, the USA Warriors Ice Hockey Program, the Capital Beltway Warriors Ice Hockey Program and other hockey-related charities.
"It's reliving my misspent youth," Katko said. "It's a lot of fun. It helps promote the brand of hockey. Most importantly, it raises money for inner-city hockey."