NFL as a learning tool
Second-graders using football as part of lessons
For most of the week, second-graders in Carla Gutshall's class are simply students. But when the time is right, they turn into the gridiron gang.
That's when the Lansing Elementary School students focus on National Football League teams to learn a variety of concepts, including capitalization, punctuation, problem solving, estimation, addition and subtraction.
Tack on research, writing and public speaking skills, and you have an all-out learning blitz that's popular among Gutshall's 23 students, who work in teams of two or three.
"It's so much fun," said Courtney Marshall, who's researching the Miami Dolphins with partner Elise Collene. "We're going to have to learn where every team is by the Super Bowl. It's going to be a lot of hard work, but our teacher thinks we can do it."
Elise said although she and her family weren't "big football fans," she loves learning about teams all over the United States.
Gutshall launched the project this year and based it on state and district standards with an emphasis on math, reading, writing and geography.
Game scores provide an easy route for students to practice math and problem-solving skills, Gutshall said.
"I might ask them, 'If the Chiefs scored two touchdowns and two extra points, how many points did they score?'" she said.
In October, the second-graders penned letters to NFL front offices, asking for information and team trinkets.
Every day, the students check the mail, hoping to find more team photos, schedules, key chains, pennants or stickers to post near the NFL teams' cities on the U.S. map in the back of the classroom.
Earlier this month, the second-graders were on a mission to find out when their team began and how it got its nickname. Then they were charged with finding the team's logo and replicating it.
Using library books and an occasional boost from Google.com, the teams carried out their research.
Later on in the project, students will organize the information into a written report and make presentations to their classmates.
At times, the answers were elusive. While researching the history of the Buffalo Bills, Tristan Lilly and Max Erickson became stumped trying to find the team's birthdate.
"You keep searching that paper, and I'll look through the book," Max told Tristan.
Other details, such as the nickname's origin, were easier to tackle.
Max and Tristan guessed the team was named after famous cowboy Buffalo Bill Cody, a childhood resident of Leavenworth. Their research confirmed their presumption.
"We just figured it out from his name," Max said.
Gutshall said she came up with the idea after realizing the popularity of recreational football and cheerleading miniclinics offered in Lansing.
"It just got to me to thinking, 'If they like sports, it might be a good way to get them involved and interested in geography,'" she said.
"The other thing is that this class just loves to do projects like this. They're a wonderful class to work with, and I feed off them."
The second-graders will wrap up the project in February with a Super Bowl party.