Team Your School Up With the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers and Flyers
Philly’s pro sports teams offer schools programs to motivate kids to exercise, read, master STEM and eat right.
Bryce Harper has been a hit with Phillies fans. The Sixers’ young new players have created a buzz of excitement. The Flyers have a hip new mascot. And the Eagles, well, their Super Bowl victory will keep them a fan favorite for years to come.
Wouldn’t it be cool to tap into the enthusiasm local kids have for these teams to encourage reading, STEM studies, exercise and healthy eating? You can, because each local pro team has a program that goes into schools and makes kids winners in one way or another.
With incentives like team paraphernalia and visits from players, mascots and cheerleaders, they get students and teachers in southeastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey and Delaware motivated to learn and achieve their goals.
Here’s what each team does:
Students can win a trip to Lincoln Financial Field for a day of fun and activities with Philadelphia Eagles players and staff in the NFL Play 60 Challenge. The program, run by the American Heart Association and the NFL, challenges students in grades four through six to get 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Philadelphia Eagles mascot, Swoop, and the Eagles cheerleaders visit schools to kick off the six-week program with a pep rally and trivia games about exercise and healthy eating. Schools receive digital lesson plans and resources to motivate students and incorporate exercise and healthy eating into their day. Teachers log their students’ activity and the 25 most active students from each of the top five schools win a day at Lincoln Financial Field.
“It gives them the motivation to get off the couch and exercise more each day,” says Jed Bordner, physical education teacher at Stephen Girard School in Philadelphia. “Sometimes children need a little push to get moving and this program does that for them when they are by themselves at home.”
To hear about the importance of character from an Eagles player can have a big impact on a child. The Character Playbook, presented by the NFL, the United Way and the online-education program Ever-Fi, teaches students in grades six through nine about healthy relationships and positive character development.
Students complete six, 20- to 30-minute graphic-novel-style online modules that teach students how to manage emotions, resolve conflict, make decisions, communicate effectively and other positive character skills. The program kicks off and closes with virtual and in-person visits with current and former Eagles players who talk with students about how to overcome challenges.
The Philadelphia Phillies and Comcast encourage children in grades PreK through eighth grade to read at least 15 minutes a day in the Phanatic About Reading program. Students log the number of minutes they read each day. Teachers report their students’ total time and that is used to select schools for a visit from the Philadelphia Phillies mascot, the Phillie Phanatic. Terri Lamphere, second-grade teacher at Davis Family School in Camden, NJ, says, “The best thing about the program for us was the amazing visit from the Phanatic. Even if we hadn’t won the assembly, I still think the program as a whole was great and will continue to do it each year with my kids.
“I am a huge baseball fan and was able to teach them all about our home team through the Phanatic books. They were so excited to learn about him and the Phillies. They were actually excited about reading every day, which can be kind of cumbersome for 6- and 7-year olds.”
Students learn about statistics, math, sportsmanship, teamwork and problem-solving in the 76ers Math Hoops program, presented by the TD Charitable Foundation. Students draft NBA and WNBA players based on their actual statistics and run a team in a basketball-themed board game designed for grades four through eight. Teachers are trained on the game and the lessons that accompany it.
Students have the opportunity to win Sixers merchandise throughout the program and top-performing students are selected for the Sixers Math Hoops tournament at the Wells Fargo Center where they’re treated to an appearance by the Sixers Dunk Squad and compete for prizes like tickets to a Sixers game or an in-school assembly with the Sixers.
Two-time Stanley Cup winner and former Philadelphia Flyer Bob “The Hound” Kelly talks about the importance of teamwork to reach goals at school, in sports and at home in a 60-minute assembly designed for grades one through five. Using the acronym TEAM, which stands for Teamwork, Education, Attitude, and Motivation, Kelly shares life lessons from his career on and off the ice.
Kelly also visits middle schools as part of the Future Goals program for grades six through eight. Future Goals, presented by the NHL and EverFi, teaches students hockey-related STEM skills in an online curriculum. Once students complete the online modules, Kelly visits the schools to test students’ knowledge in a Flyers’ STEM trivia contest.
The Flyers also raise awareness about the importance of nutrition and physical activity with their Flyers Face-Off for Fitness program for grades one through eight.
Jason Tempesta, director of community relations for the Philadelphia Flyers, says, “We use the sport of hockey to get kids to be active. We take over gym class for about 45 minutes, do some hockey and get kids moving, and we talk about how our players eat and exercise.”
Susan Stopper is a Pennsylvania-based free-lance writer.