DETROIT -- To be successful in the NHL, players need to be extremely smart, using a myriad of critical cognitive skills to help them gain an edge on the ice.
Now, with the help of the NHL Future Goals Program, students in metro Detroit and throughout the country are using hockey to help develop those cognitive skills to be successful in the classroom.
Last January, the Detroit Red Wings, the NHL and the NHLPA announced the launch of Hockey Scholar, a new hockey-themed educational course in conjunction with the Future Goals Program, which is designed to enable elementary and middle school students to develop important science, technology, engineering and math skills and understand the real world application of these disciplines.
To help launch the course last year, Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser and forward Justin Abdelkader visited Alfred E. Upton Elementary School in Royal Oak, Mich., to interact with students as they progressed through the course.
Hockey Scholar is a free course within the Future Goals Program that takes students on an exciting educational journey with a goal of winning the Stanley Cup.
Students guide their favorite NHL team by completing 12 learning modules designed to educate them and test their knowledge on core STEM concepts including data analysis, geometry, life science and physical science.
These topics come to life through hockey simulations that include the dynamics of the ice surface, equipment design, athletic performance and other factors to detail how hockey is played, using rates and ratios, states of matter, force and energy.
"The Future Goals program provides a fun way for students to expand on what they're learning in the classroom through a cutting-edge digital learning environment," Olympia Entertainment president and CEO Tom Wilson said last January.
The Hockey Scholar course maps to state math and science standards and is freely available to elementary and middle schools (Grades 4-7) across Michigan, on behalf of the Red Wings.
The course was developed by Washington, D.C.-based EverFi, the critical skills education leader that has certified more than 12 million learners.
"The level of engagement in this program from the league, the players and their clubs is unprecedented in the sports world," said EverFi co-founder and chief strategy officer Jon Chapman when the Hockey Scholar course was unveiled within the Future Goals Program. "What's most important is how this partnership is making a difference for thousands of students and teachers across North America."
A year after the Hockey Scholar course launched, nearly 5,000 students across 74 metro Detroit schools have incorporated the course into their curriculum.
As a reward for utilizing Hockey Scholar, the Red Wings event marketing team selects schools throughout metro Detroit with the highest participation and completion rate, and donates two brand-new sets of floor hockey equipment for the school to keep.
The event marketing team also provides a free floor hockey clinic for each lucky school so students can break in their new Red Wings-themed equipment.
Earlier this month, the Red Wings donated the equipment to the the Blackwell Institute, a K-8 public school in Northeast Detroit.
Barbara Case, a middle school science teacher at the Blackwell Institute, urged her administration to implement the Hockey Scholar course into the school's curriculum last year. After completing a year with the program, Case said she likes what she sees, as most students are captivated by the course.
"I like that students are able to participate at their own pace," Case said. "For students who are able to, it's very good to work at their own pace and incorporate real-life situations into their learning. And they loved it. They were always asking if they could do the hockey program. They even wanted to use it outside the allotted time we gave them and go on it more often."
Case said most students who completed the Hockey Scholar course have a higher interest in science and math than ever before.
The seventh-year Blackwell Institute educator said that because of the course, some students have even registered for a Detroit pre-college engineering program called DAPCEP, which provides historically underrepresented youth with innovative educational programming in science, technology, engineering mathematics and medicine.
Case said one of the biggest positives about Hockey Scholar is that it allows students to apply math and science concepts to real-life situations and incorporate sports into their education, giving students a chance to connect to the material unlike any other aspect of the curriculum.
"They love the sports aspect of it," Case said. "They think it's very, very cool that the Red Wings are sponsoring the program. Although some of them aren't very familiar with hockey, it gives them insight and got them interested in hockey and the NHL. The sports aspect is definitely a big hook."
After the Red Wings visited the Blackwell Institute to recognize its first year of program completion, Case said she was extremely grateful for the Hockey Scholar course, and said the equipment donation was the icing on the cake.
"I think it's awesome that we're getting the equipment because this school does not have a lot of gym equipment at all," Case said. "The kids will absolutely love it. The gym teacher thanked me for getting the program started here so we could get the hockey equipment. Everyone is really excited about it."
Video: Behind-the-scenes of the Future Goals program
For more information about the Hockey Scholar course and the Future Goals Program, and to register your school for free, visit FutureGoals.NHL.com/RedWings.