DETROIT - As the books begin to close for the 2018-19 school year, the Detroit Red Wings are recognizing our hardworking heroes in the classroom with the celebration of National Teacher Appreciation Week.
In addition to monetary donations, community events and School Assembly Program visits throughout the year, the Red Wings support teachers and schools throughout the state of Michigan by offering the Future Goals - Hockey Scholar™ program, a hockey-themed educational course designed to enable students to develop important science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills.
In partnership with EverFi, the nation's leading critical skills education platform, the Future Goals program has been implemented by all 31 NHL teams and uses hockey concepts like equipment engineering, ice surface area/volume calculations and more to help students understand the real-world application of STEM disciplines.
Future Goals was invented in September 2014, and since its inception, 2.7 million students across the country have participated in the free program, 70,000 of whom are from right here in Michigan.
One hardworking local teacher who's reaped the benefits of the Future Goals program is Cass Tech High School teacher Karl Balke. Balke has used Future Goals as part of his curriculum for three years and said because of the ever-evolving digital age, the program is a perfect way to captivate his students' attention.
"The units align with aspects of the curriculum that I cover in both physics and engineering," Balke said. "The students are digital natives and enjoy the game aspect of the curriculum. They successfully navigate through the challenges, learning as they go.
"I assign one section of a unit per week as homework. The students can complete the unit at their own pace sometime during the week, and the website keeps track of their scores, making it a simple matter of monitoring their progress and keeping them accountable."
The Red Wings have rewarded local students' participation in the Future Goals program in each of the last two seasons with STEM Day at Little Caesars Arena.
The first annual STEM Day in February 2018 welcomed nearly 300 Detroit Public School Community District students to listen to guest speakers about their STEM-related careers and engage in STEM-related Q & A sessions, along with a pizza party and a chance to watch Red Wings practice.
And 2019's STEM Day took the education a step further, allowing guest students to come onto the BELFOR Training Center ice to learn about hockey-related STEM concepts first-hand.
While STEM Day, itself, is a reward for the students, the participating teachers and schools have also gotten rewarded at the end of each STEM Day, in the form of a $30,000 donation to the Detroit Public Schools Foundation to purchase technological equipment and help grow STEM education, courtesy of the Detroit Red Wings Foundation and Chevrolet.
Red Wings director of community relations and the Detroit Red Wings Foundation Kevin Brown said he's thrilled that the Future Goals program and the monetary donations have helped make local teachers' work easier.
"The dedication of our local teachers is nothing short of amazing," Brown said. "Through programs like Future Goals-Hockey Scholar, we're working together by using hockey to bring math and science to life in classrooms across Michigan. During Teacher Appreciation Week, and quite frankly year-round, the Red Wings are honored to highlight the hard work of educators like Ken Balke and countless others who continue to help students succeed."
In addition to STEM Day, the Red Wings and EverFi host Future Goals training sessions at Little Caesars Arena where Detroit Public School teachers can learn how to implement the program into their curriculum. Training sessions also include tours of Little Caesars Arena and networking opportunities, and upcoming sessions will also allow teachers to earn professional development credit.
"Having teacher trainings at Little Caesars Arena is a great opportunity to recruit new teachers from the DPSCD and showcase the program while answering any of their questions," said Olivia Twiddy, EverFi's senior manager, customer success and marketing. "We've also invited teachers who have used the program in the past to share their experience and give examples on how they implement the program in the classroom."
Balke said STEM education is as important as ever for his students, and said Future Goals is a perfect way to apply STEM concepts to everyday life.
"It is very important for students to see that their classroom experiences have application to the larger world," he said. "Future Goals uses experiences and applications that can be reasonably interpreted and extrapolated to actual experiences, although they are simulations. The simulations reflect actuality.
"Students in my classes are exposed to a variety of experimental techniques, from using standard investigation data gathering, probe-ware connected to computers for automated data collection, online simulations and other online resources. Future Goals is part of this blend."
As Teacher Appreciation Week wraps up on Saturday, Balke said he values the Red Wings' partnership with the Detroit Public Schools Community District and he appreciates the support the Wings provide.
"Financial support of STEM efforts in the Detroit Public Schools District from the Red Wings is very generous and commendable," Balke said. "Monetary support means the district can target the specific needs of the students and the programs they are engaged in. The Red Wings are an excellent role model of what other entities in Detroit could do to foster and support increased education in the STEM fields."
To learn more about the Future Goals program, visit DetroitRedWings.com/FutureGoals.