In the fall of 2019, the Boston Bruins announced a $50,000 partnership with Playworks New England.
“The Boston Bruins Foundation is happy to partner with Playworks to promote health and wellness in elementary schools throughout New England,” said Bob Sweeney, President of the Boston Bruins Foundation. “Playworks has a strong proven foundation to improve children’s learning capacity utilizing their programs and we are happy to assist in their efforts.”
Since the partnership launched in 2019, we have completed three consecutive years of high-quality programming that is made up of Hockey Weeks and a FitKid Curriculum, implemented by our Coaches and Site Coordinators. Even when schools were virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bruins Foundation remained a steadfast partner and helped us put together hundreds of indoor recess kits that were distributed to students around Boston.
During Hockey Weeks, students at Playworks schools learn the basics of hockey: how to hold a stick, how to dribble, shoot, and pass, and the structure of the game. The hockey program also takes Playworks games that are played at recess every day, such as Steal the Bacon and Red Light, Green Light, and adapts them to incorporate hockey skills and team building, giving kids a chance to practice these skills with games that they are already familiar with.
After months of adapting to virtual games during the pandemic, this year’s Hockey Weeks were met with excitement and the willingness to “try it on,” regardless of comfort level with the sport of hockey. All across the greater Boston area, Coaches hosted four separate hockey weeks that scaffolded skills and culminated in playing real games of hockey with equipment donated by the Bruins. Some Coaches used their recess or Class Game Times to teach these skills and play hockey-related games, and some found other times to integrate the curriculum into their programming.
Coach Jared, a first year AmeriCorps Coach at the Franklin D. Roosevelt School, taught hockey to his Junior Coaches during their Junior Coach Training twice a week.
“At first my Junior Coaches weren’t thrilled about the idea of playing hockey because it was new and intimidating,” Coach Jared said. “However, a week into the program they started loving it and after the last week, my students didn’t want to stop playing. We still play it at Junior Coach training now because of how much they love it!”
Some students and schools fell in love with hockey once it was introduced to them, and their Coaches noticed. Coach Sara, an AmeriCorps Coach at the Blackstone School, saw how much her students were engaging with the hockey curriculum and decided to celebrate their love of the game with a round-robin tournament on a Friday in March. While classes played hockey games against each other, the rest of the school came out to cheer and show off the signs and posters they had made for the day. At the end of the tournament, Coach Sara awarded a “Golden Hockey Stick” to a player who exemplified Playworks core values of respect, inclusion, and good sportsmanship.
Another piece of the partnership is implementing the FitKid Curriculum, which was designed to help students learn fitness exercises and easy workout routines to build muscle and increase cardiovascular health. Once the exercises are taught, the program is designed to incorporate standard exercises into core Playworks games to make them even more enjoyable. For example, rather than just playing regular tag, in the FitKid Curriculum you must do lunges or burpees to catch each other rather than running. By teaching exercises and integrating them into fun and competitive games, we are hoping to build an excitement around physical fitness and activity.
Similar to the hockey weeks, each Coach implemented the FitKid Curriculum differently during the month of April.
Coach Jared taught the program at his school during Class Game Time and focused on introducing upper body, lower body, and cardio exercises to his students. He made sure to make it as fun as possible by bringing out his speaker and encouraging some healthy competition around who could do the most push-ups, squats, or springs. Even with all the competition, at the end of each Class Game Time his students would still give each other high fives.