By Aaron Retherford
Barre Town Middle and Elementary School recently joined the 86 schools and one university in Vermont enrolled in The First Tee National School Program Initiative.
Angie Carpenter-Henderson, a Physical Education Teacher for grades 3-5 at Barre Town Middle and Elementary School, witnessed the benefits of The First Tee National School Program while teaching at Fairlfield Center School. She said her students learned a lot and really enjoyed the program, so she decided her Barre students might have a similar experience.
“This program is a great opportunity for students because many have never had the chance to try the game of golf,” Carpenter-Henderson said. “Golf is a sport that students can participate in for a lifetime. Students also get the chance to learn about the nine core values and nine healthy habits, which can be used at anytime in their lives.”
The First Tee National School Program teaches the game of golf around the world. The primary focus of the program is to teach youth The First Tee Nine Core Values: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy, and judgment. The program also encourages The First Tee Nine Healthy Habits: play, energy, safety, mind, family, vision, friends, school, and community.
“In essence, what I’ve heard P.E. teachers tell me is they’ve taken those same lifetime values they’re learning through the National School Program and applying them to other areas of their P.E. curriculum,” Richard H. Mihlrad, Executive Director of Vermont First Tee National School Program, said. “It teaches kids to be good citizens.”
Since its inception in 1997, more than 7,000 elementary schools have participated in The First Tee National School Program. In Vermont alone, the program has the opportunity to positively impact more than 15,000 elementary students each year.
The program includes a Vermont-approved physical education curriculum that Carpenter-Henderson plans to use with all of the kindergarten through fifth-grade classes.
Barre City Elementary and Middle School is also enrolled in the program, although it has yet to participate in it because the school shares equipment with Orange Center School.
However, Kacey Abbriano, a Physical Education teacher at both Barre City Elementary and Middle School and Orange Center School in East Barre, said her students at Orange loved the program and hopes the weather will cooperate so students at Barre City can get in some golf this spring.
“Playing outside was so much better than inside because the students were playing nine holes (stations) on our soccer field, and loved every minute of it,” Abbriano said. “I taught them how to score at their hole and they even got scorecards. We’re in a mini tournament during the last week of the unit that I added in there. This program has really helped my students’ fundamental skills as well as build their confidence and character as a citizen using the core values of the program.”
The program uses SNAG (Starting New At Golf) equipment, which includes oversized clubs, tennis-style balls, a variety of targets, and each club is sized appropriately depending on the height of the child. Club grips show where to position hands, so kids learn the proper golf grip without long demonstrations.
The program is so user-friendly that P.E. teachers don’t have to be golfers to teach golf with this program.
An added bonus is students have the opportunity to take special field trips.
Mihlrad said the program has had great success with field trips to golf courses. Students tour the course, learn how to putt on a putting green, rake bunkers and most kids fall in love with ball washing machines. Because of that success, Mihlrad wishes more golf pros were involved with the program.
“I’d like to see a little more from them. I have some who are very beneficial and helpful and others are not quite as,” Mihlrad said. “We think it’s very important for that partnership to prosper. We’d like to see the golf pro come to the P.E. class at the school, so kids can see what a real golf pro is like. We really want the kids to take a field trip to the golf course because most of the kids in Vermont haven’t been on a golf course.
“They just are in awe of the types of grasses, the bunkers, the ball washers, the tractors, and everything that’s there, so it’s very enlightening for the kids.”