No more pencils, no more books…it’s time to give golf a look.
At least, that’s according to longtime educators Jim King, of Nova Scotia, and Patti Christensen, of Alberta. For them, golf is a lifelong passion, almost equal to that of their desire to educate young people. And with the Golf in Schools program, both have been able to bring that personal passion into the classroom — all while following a curriculum that delivers on a number of educational benchmarks.
“I found it connected very well with a lot of the curriculum outcomes, especially in terms of the healthy active living outcomes,” says King, who is now a staff officer with the Nova Scotia Teacher’s Union. He was the principal at Atlantic View Elementary School for the past five years.
“I didn’t feel like I was implementing anything extra for the students; I felt like it was contributing to the students’ overall academic and physical literacy success,” he continues.
The Golf in Schools program, created by Golf Canada in partnership with the PGA of Canada and Physical and Health Education Canada, has been evolving since its inception, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the focus on the student. More often than not, the young people who become involved with Golf in Schools are students who may not have had the opportunity to try golf before.
“I’m in a school where the kids may not have been exposed to golf, and I was lucky to have the parent council purchase two kits for me,” explains Christensen, the principal at Kensington Elementary School just outside Edmonton. Christensen has been a principal at Edmonton-area schools for the past 13 years and involved with Golf in Schools since 2009.
However, she has played the game nearly her whole life.
“I think the most important thing for me is that I wanted to give back to a game that has given me so much,” she explains. “My parents taught me how to golf, and I wanted to share the love of something I had with the students.”
To increase awareness for the program, Graham DeLaet was named an ambassador for Golf in Schools in mid-2015. In a press release at the time, DeLaet said that he felt it was “important to introduce golf in schools so that kids can start learning the sport early, seeing more kids with clubs in their hands, and ultimately growing the game of golf.”
King adds that he is seeing examples of that first-hand with students.
“For some, the image of golf was that it wasn’t very exciting, but this (the Golf in Schools program) completely changed their perspective,” he says.
Especially for the younger students — who get to use modified equipment — because the program is another way to introduce them, at an early age, to a sport that is gender inclusive, promotes a healthy active lifestyle, and is one they can play for life.
“The nice thing about the program is that it’s safe for the kids,” states Christensen. “The equipment is safe, the balls are big and easier to hit for the younger kids. It can be set up to be successful pretty quickly.”
For King, he was able to set up some Golf in Schools activities for all students during end-of-year field days, so even then the students outside the Golf in Schools group were able to have some fun with the equipment.
“We had stations where everybody could use the equipment and try it for themselves,” he says. “We wanted to raise awareness of golf as a lifelong sport and a great way to enjoy the fresh air.”
Away from the schoolyard or gymnasium, Golf in Schools has a component where organizers can partner with a local golf course and its head professional for continual learning.
Christensen says she is going to have some of her students volunteer at a charity golf tournament this year, and is hopeful she will secure students a couple of memberships at that club.
Meanwhile, King has brought groups of students to learn from the staff at the Links at Montague in Dartmouth, N.S., for the past two years.
“Some of the young people went on to do their summertime clinics, and others joined golf courses,” King proudly states. “The reactions and the enthusiasm from when the students were involved in the program was always very rewarding.”
Because the program aligns with governmentally assigned teaching objectives, it’s easy to pick a curriculum that fits with a teacher’s existing lesson plan. But for Christensen, she says the non-golf parts of Golf in Schools are just as important.
“Incorporating life skills into the program is very important for me. That’s going to be highlighted very strongly,” she states.
But of course, the program is about having fun as well.
As King says, “The program has grown to the point where now students will ask in September, when they come back from summer vacation, ‘When are we going to do Golf in Schools?’”
Golf in Schools
Divided into different programs by age groups, the Golf in Schools program has been implemented at close to 2,800 schools and involved more than 306,000 students. It is the single-most concentrated opportunity to get kids of all backgrounds and demographics introduced to the sport.
What’s it all about?
For teachers, the Golf in Schools program comes with instructional manuals not unlike other curriculum documents. Teachers can easily assess students’ physical proficiency with a variety of fundamental movement skills. Golf in Schools now integrates a ‘Life Skills’ component to each lesson plan, which are selected for their relevance to golf.
What life skills are learned?
The life skills component, developed through a partnership with the University of Ottawa, emphasizes core values — perseverance, focus, goal setting, emotional regulation, honesty, teamwork, respect and sportspersonship — which are transferable on and off the golf course.
Where do students go next?
If students are showing an interest in the sport, Golf Canada in partnership with the PGA of Canada and provincial golf associations are proud to run CN Future Links, Canada’s national junior golf program. Parents can find junior-friendly clubs in their community that offer free clinics geared to young golfers.
More information can be found at golfinschools.golfcanada.ca
Best in class
This article was originally published in the April 2016 edition of Golf Canada Magazine. To view the full magazine, click the image to the left.