Are you ready for some football?
Of course, we all are. It's the time of the year when even the most casual fans start to do a lot of wondering. When is the next time they will get to smell the grill fire up at a tailgate party? When is the next time they will get to wipe the mud off their pants just before heading inside to watch David Akers kick off? How long will it be before they walk into work Monday morning unable to talk because they screamed 'E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES!' until their voices went hoarse?
Now imagine if your little child thought the same way about his or her Kindergarten class. Children walking around the halls of an elementary school talking about the Eagles game, but probably not the way you would. They are saying, "You can find the average score by using division," or "The vertical graph predicts the Eagles to win," and "The quarterback held the ball for 14 seconds. I can write my name two times in that same amount of time!"
You would hear this if you walked down the halls of Florence L. Walther Elementary School in Lumberton, N.J. and into the Kindergarten classroom of Dr. Kim Mueller.
Mueller has been a teacher there longer than any current Eagle has been in Philadelphia and she created the "Are you ready for some football?" educational program to integrate math, geography, technology, music, language arts and current events. The program works because Mueller connects how all of these subjects relate to the real world and not just the real world, to the game of football which most kids love. The children take what they've learned at school and talk about it with their parents at home to reinforce the lessons.
Wouldn't you love it if your child came home to talk about the Eagles? And it had to do with what they learned at school?
Children and parents are not the only ones crazy about the program. Mueller has been honored with the Best Practices in Mathematics in New Jersey award, an Honorable Mention at the School Leaders Award and Outstanding Program by the New Jersey Association of Supervisors and Curriculum Development. Among the hundreds of students who have come through her classroom, one of them was the youngest daughter of former Eagles wide receiver Irving Fryar.
"I have a corner of my classroom dedicated to the Eagles," said Mueller. "From posters to pens, from football helmets to figurines children and parents add to my ever-growing collection of Eagles paraphernalia. Over the course of the football season it is also not unusual to see the children in my class begin to wear more and more Eagles shirts. My room becomes a sea of green and white. As more and more students catch Eagles fever so does their excitement.
"They come in on Monday morning yelling the score of the game. It is exciting to me as a teacher to see students come into the classroom knowing they have taken this current events unit and taken ownership of it. We follow the Eagles into the postseason. I conduct pep rallies in which we make our own rally towels, uniforms out of paper, throw footballs like Donovan McNabb, tackle hunger by collecting food for the needy, tailgate with foods that are green and white and sing the Eagles fight song over and over again."
Don't you wish you could go back to school?
Mueller developed the program when a former student's grandfather was deployed to serve in Iraq. The child's grandfather was a huge Eagles fan and wanted to keep up with what was going on with the team. It began with simple e-mails predicting what the scores would be and what the actual results were. It helped pass some of the time for the Eagles fan in Iraq, but it also inspired Mueller to incorporate this into her teaching lessons.
At the beginning of the week, students learn about who the Eagles are going to play that week. They use newspapers, magazines and the Internet to research the upcoming opponent. Around Wednesday, the students learn where the opposing team is from, the time of the game and try to guess who will win the game. The buildup - just like for the game itself - reaches its peak on Friday when the students give their predictions and Mueller combines all of the scores together to come up with the average score. During the weekend, the learning doesn't stop. The students go home and discuss the game with their parents and learn all the information they can by reading until game time.
On Monday, the way the Eagles play will dictate what the mood in the classroom will be, just like most of our workplaces. Win or lose, the students are focused on next week's opponent and another round of debate over who will win and what the score will be begins.
"Such passionate mathematical discussions frequently occur in my Kindergarten classroom," said Mueller. "These discussions inspire me to think beyond the box when it comes to mathematics instruction. I assist my students as they navigate through complex yet creative mathematics activities that encourage them to think more deeply about mathematics. The students' awareness and zeal often surface at home through enthusiastic, student lead family discussions about the school day."
Many of you are probably thinking right now, how much more would I have learned if I had this teacher in Kindergarten? The rest of us simply want to know, how do we enroll?