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October 16, 2002 1 min read
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Teeing Off on Learning

Golf isn’t only fun and games, as pupils at two Denver schools can attest.

Students at Centennial and Columbine elementary schools are not only learning how to play the sport, they are also making their own golf clubs. Along the way, they’re getting a dose of academics.

Dave Kolquist, who runs the Junior Golf program at the schools, tries to prove that the game can be educational.

“We’re trying to use a subtle approach to make learning fun,” Mr. Kolquist said.

When constructing their own clubs, students must read directions and make a number of calculations, including the weights and measurements of different club parts, he notes.

“They’re getting a little more academic exposure to reading and math each day they’re with us,” he said.

The program is paid for by a grant from the United States Golf Association Foundation, which donates money nationwide to programs that teach golf and give academic support to inner-city and at-risk youngsters and people with disabilities, said Jessica Turnwald, the foundation’s fellowship and grants coordinator.

Mr. Kolquist received $55,000, $20,000 of which goes toward the education component of his program. The remaining amount, he said, will be used to help build “golf playgrounds” at the golf facilities near the two schools, so that students can play and practice the sport in a supervised setting.

About 20 pupils in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades from each school take part in the lessons, which are given at school outside of class time.

Even off the golf course, Mr. Kolquist finds ways to use the sport in teaching. As he walks with students to the golf course for the day’s lesson, he holds informal spelling contests, often with golf terms, and other trivia games. He rewards the students for right answers.

“I go through an awful lot of candy,” he said.

The program also provides volunteers who tutor pupils in math and reading four days a week at Columbine Elementary.

Because of its success, the golf program will soon hold an eight-week session at the school, with instruction one hour each day during school hours.

There’s a synergy between golf and academics, Ms. Turnwald argues, because it teaches success and discipline. “Golf is just a vehicle to teach those life lessons,” she said.

—Nashiah Ahmad

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