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Is Watching Hockey Educational?

September 23, 2000

The Mighty Ducks hockey team recently hosted more than 11,000 elementary and middle school students from more than 110 schools in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Students were invited to spend a school day watching the Ducks' scrimmage at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim.

Some critics argued that missing classes to watch hockey is not a beneficial use of students' time. Others said that creating a fan base under the guise of performing community outreach was inappropriate. MARCELA ROJAS spoke with a representative from the Mighty Ducks and an educator.

PIERRE GAUTHIER

President and general manager, Mighty Ducks

Hockey is a great game. More and more kids are taking an interest in hockey, even though it is not a prevalent sport in Southern California. It is our role in the community to motivate the kids into taking challenges and to introduce the game to them so that they may know whether they may want to participate in it in the future.

This was the first time we've ever done a project like this. The whole point was to make it a school project and not just to entertain. The students arrived at 10 a.m. and left by 12:15 p.m. But the purpose was not just to watch the Ducks' scrimmage. They were given a workbook where they had to answer questions regarding grammar, spelling, math and observation. Multiple choice on the size of the rink, spellings of hockey players and other educational questions related to hockey.

It was a great experience for them. If you're going to have a field trip, it's important that it be educational. I think teachers in the school districts are the best judges; they have responded positively to the project. Lifetime activities and broadening a school kid's horizons are part of the growing and learning process. We are part of the community; it's important that we make them aware of us and help them along in that process.

The only way this project benefits us is that it gives us additional presence in the community. Of course, in the bigger picture it benefits us if we have more fans, but the players don't look at it that way. We do a lot of charity work with our players. The privilege we have, being in the position we are in, is that we can make a difference in the community. The players look at it as a way to make things better for kids.

DAY HIGUCHI

President, United Teachers Los Angeles

With more than 20 years' experience as a classroom teacher, I can say that field trips can be worthwhile experiences if they culminate in an educational activity.

If the teachers ask the students to write a summary about their experiences then it can be of value. But if it's simply a way to have a day to relax, then you are losing instructional time. Good teachers will use a field trip to enhance the curriculum. It really depends on how it is integrated into the classroom. That's the teachers' responsibility. So you really can't tell if it was worthwhile unless you asked all the teachers involved.

On the other hand, you could look at this field trip as a little bit of advertising and consumer development for the Ducks. This is a minor thing, but it's symptomatic of something that happens on a larger scale. If we don't fund schools to take field trips, it forces us to be part of these tax write-off charities. That's why the Ducks' are doing this, not because they love kids.

I don't think it's right for kids to be part of any kind of advertising schemes. Just from watching television, children are conditioned to be major consumers. That's a problem. As in Canada, schools here need to enforce media education and analyze it for what it communicates both obviously and subliminally. How are these images distorting the truth?

It's sad that schoolkids are a captive audience, that they must rely on freebies to be able to participate in field trips.

If the Ducks were serious about enriching the lives of schoolchildren, a much healthier activity would be if they charged an extra dollar on their tickets and used that money to fund arts education and athletic enrichment in schools. Then maybe the children wouldn't have to go on field trips and could just spend that time in school learning and broadening their horizons.

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