It wasn't a typical Monday afternoon for fifth and sixth graders at Mars Area Centennial School. The students were surprised with special visits from Penguins players Kris Letang, Derick Brassard and Daniel Sprong of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Letang, Brassard and Sprong visited the students as part of the "Future Goals Hockey Scholar Program," which was developed by Washington D.C.-based Everfi, the critical skills education leader.
Video: Players visit some lucky students
The school is in its second year using the program, which helps students learn science, technology, engineering and math concepts that are present in the sport of hockey by using simulations on iPads and computers. The students also learn about data analysis, geometry, life science and physical science topics.
"There are a couple of different things," STEM teacher and technology coach Colleen Hinrichsen said of how her students are utilizing the program. "They've done this uncover the ice project and they have to figure out the area and how much to remove. Then, there's angles, which has to do with the shots. It makes them care about the angles more when they also learn how to be able to shoot the puck better. Painting the ice is my favorite one, it is coordinates and graphing. They have to figure out where to put the line and make it bigger. There's also parallel and perpendicular terms thrown around."
The program launched in September 2014 and is a league-wide initiative co-sponsored by the NHL and the NHL Players Association. The "Future Goals Hockey Scholar Program" has reached over 59,000 students and yielded over 154,000 hours of STEM learning opportunities.
Letang, Brassard and Sprong stopped by Hinrichsen's classroom before attending a school-wide assembly with a Q&A with Penguins broadcaster Josh Getzoff and running a floor hockey clinic. In the classroom, students showed the players what they were working on and explained how the program works.
"It was the first time I was in an actual class since probably 10 to 15 years," Brassard said. "It was pretty cool. The kids seemed pretty interested in what they were working on."
Letang was pretty bewildered by the advancements in education and technology.
"Back in my day we used pen and paper," Letang said with a laugh. "We didn't use hockey to learn math. I wish we had."
As additional incentive for the students, by passing the first certificate of the program in math or science they can get their name written on a Stanley Cup replica that Mrs. Hinrichsen has. Every time a student gets their name written on the Cup they receive a raffle ticket to be entered to win various prizes.
Fifth grader AJ Harrocks, showed Brassard and Sprong a simulation problem of the area of an ice rink. Harrocks, who is a big Penguins fan, turned 11 years old this past Saturday. He was ecstatic to show the players what he has been learning as he celebrated his birthday at school.
"This is like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Harrocks said. "I've gotten two trophies so far. I really like the program because before I didn't really know how to do a lot of math and now I know how to do a lot a math a lot better. I've learned a lot from this program. I really like it."
The players got to walk away with some new math and science knowledge relating to their profession, while the students started the week off getting to meet a few of their idols.
"It's good for them to be working with that stuff," Brassard said. "It's a new technology now for them to learn some new stuff. It was good to be here today. (There were) a lot of jerseys. I felt the sport is great around this town. It was good to see all of the kids."