Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Hang ten credits 

This is taking physical education to a whole new level.
When Ryan Bouton starts his studies at Evergreen State College in Washington this fall, he'll arrive on campus with several credits already in hand. He earned them while surfing the waves off the golden beaches of Costa Rica.

Becky Slattery plans to spend half of July hurtling down the slopes on British Columbia's Blackcomb Glacier. Her snowboard team membership will earn her credit for her senior year at Gould Academy, a Maine prep school.

And last month, Hawaii's State Board of Education allowed the state's 44 public high schools to create official surfing teams for the first time. This followed years of debate with the state attorney general's office, which had opposed the move due to safety issues.

These developments illustrate a growing trend: Schools are using board sports like surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding, and freeride skiing as educational tools. ...

When it comes to board sports, young enthusiasts share a universal language, says Kim Hellman, director of the Grom Project, a San Diego-based nonprofit that uses board sports to involve teenagers in beach cleanups, fundraising initiatives, career planning, and environmental projects.

"This language, and the common culture around it, has created an international framework of discourse and values that differ from other sports," says Ms. Hellman. "Teenagers and preteens relate to it strongly. Educators now know it can motivate young people about activities that might otherwise bore them." ...

Board sports represent "a lifestyle choice and a particular kind of intelligence," says Dave Bean, who teaches English and history at the 168-year-old Gould Academy and coaches its skateboard team. Board sportspeople are often independent thinkers, he says, with unique learning styles.

One of the programs is part of an Outward Bound program, which one of my great-uncles taught at Keene State in NH many years ago. What caught my eye is the use of these projects to "involve teenagers". It appears to trade college credits for activism in environmental causes.