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Sixth Grade Class Gets New Outlook on Playoff Beard

by Deborah Francisco / Pittsburgh Penguins
Sixth grade students at North Strabane Intermediate School found a unique way to support the Penguins - with rhyme and verse.

The hallway outside of Tyler Bluemling’s Language Arts and Social Studies classroom has been transformed into a mosaic of a bushy, brown-bearded hockey player, and the mosaic, which stretches from floor to ceiling, is comprised of original free verse poems written by the students.

“(Mr. Bluemling) decided that he was going to grow a playoff beard and that we were going to write a poem about it,” Samantha, 12, said. “It makes writing poetry more fun.”

It all started when Bluemling decided to sprout a playoff beard as a part of the Penguins Beard-A-Thon to raise money for the Mario Lemieux Foundation. Bluemling has raised $300 so far. When he first started out, his students poked fun at his wiry whiskers, which inspired him to use the playoff beard as the subject of their poetry unit.

”The kids were asking me about the beard that I was growing for the playoffs,” Bluemling explained. “We were on a poetry unit and I thought it would be kind of funny with some of these kids to write a poem about my playoff beard.

“They got really excited about the project. Some of them poked fun at me in their poems and I was completely OK with that. They said it was a weak beard, but that was in the early stages. Now it’s starting to fill out a little bit more.”

Bluemling’s students, however, are very opinionated about their beloved teacher’s new beard.

“I think Mr. Bluemling is trying really hard to make it grow really long,” Malina, 12, said. “We were expecting it to be a little bit longer, but it’s not very long,”

“Mr. Bluemling’s beard is not as big as some of the Penguins’ beards are,” Nick, 11, added. “But it is bigger than (Evgeni) Malkin and (Sidney) Crosby’s beards.”

After Bluemling assigned the poems, his students hopped onto the project with enthusiasm.

“I was eating dinner and my whole family was pitching ideas and I kind of just put it together to get my poem,” Malina said. “I thought it was a cool idea to make these poems for the playoffs.”

After the students penned their poems, Mr. Bluemling had the idea to turn it into a mosaic.

“I though it would be cool to create a face out of the poems, so we just started piecing the poems together and it turned out better then I was expecting.” Bluemling said. “We talked about the design, so they shaded the poems in and trimmed the edges and we just started piecing the poems together.”

The end result is the giant hockey player face that now graces the second floor hallway and, according to the class, resembles left wing Matt Cooke.

The playoff beard poetry isn’t the only way North Strabane Intermediate School supports the Penguins. In fact, Principal Tom Theodore calls for a Black and Gold Day for each playoff game.

“We’re really fortunate to have a principal who is a diehard Penguins fan and we do a lot of things to support the Penguins,” Bluemling said. “Usually we joke around on the second floor that we have the starting five walking through the halls. We have kids walking around with Fleury jerseys, Crosby jerseys, Malkin jerseys, Staal jerseys and we have a Kris Letang jersey across the hall. So we pretty much have the whole team, or at least all of the positions covered.”

But for some of the kids in Bluemling’s class, the playoff beard project was about more then hockey.

“My aunt has cancer, so I think it’s neat to help out the Mario Lemieux Foundation,” Leann, 13, said. “It was great to see how some people didn’t make fun of the project but they just went for it and the great cause it’s going to, so it made me really happy.”

“I like that we are doing our project to support the Mario Lemieux Foundation for cancer kids,” Nick said. “Because even if the Penguins go to the playoffs and win, then you get to support it a lot and you want to see how big the playoff beard gets.”

Mr. Bluemling’s class is certainly looking forward to seeing how big his playoff beard will get, and if the Penguins have anything to do with it, he will have a lot longer to grow it.

The Poems:

My Playoff Beard
by Malina

All though it seems a little weird
Pittsburgh hockey fans grow playoff beards!

It is a truly worth while cause,
More generous than Santa Clause

Hairy faces here and there
Even one in my teacher’s chair!

Do you think this will work
Or is it just an added perk?

Win or lose a Penguins fan will be
Raising money for cancer kids in need!

Mr. B’s Beard
By Clay

As the Pens near the Cup
Mr. B’s beard has had enough
This beard is scary
It is also hairy
The beard is big
The beard great
The beard is bigger than the Brandenburg Gate
As the Flyers shave with razors
Paper flyers sell blazers
As his beard grows thick
Malkin will need a new stick
When the last puck is shot like a laser,
Mr. Bluemling will have to use his razor

The Playoff Beard
By Nick

It’s big or small
It’s bright or dull
It may be a bit to haul

You don’t want to shave it
So the players might have to behave a bit

It may sound weird
But it is the PLAYOFF BEARD!
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