The Detroit Tigers in the Classroom

Teachers in the metro Detroit area are capitalizing on the World Series fever engulfing their city by using the Tigers baseball team in their lesson plans. For example, they are teaching students their ABCs using the players' names.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Well, it's not just you DAY TO DAY listeners who are learning some baseball history. In Detroit, schoolteachers see the World Series as a chance to capture their students' attention.

NPR's Celeste Headlee reports.

CELESTE HEADLEE: Barb Staniszewski's classroom at Jack Harvey Elementary School is covered with Detroit Tigers paraphernalia: newspaper headlines, ball caps, baseball cards, and along one wall is an alphabet that the children have created called The Spirit of the Tigers.

Ms. KELLY CHRISTIANSEN (Student): A, awesome player.

Mr. JOSH TRUBY(ph) (Student): I had this letter C, clutch.

Mr. MASON WALKER (Student): H for homerun.

Ms. ANDREA ACKERMAN (Student): K for Kenny Rogers.

Mr. JUSTIN URSAKI (Student): Q, never quit.

Ms. ALLY GIDDY(ph) (Student): W for Withers.

HEADLEE: Kelly Christiansen, Josh Truby, Mason Walker, Andrea Ackerman, Justin Ursaki, and Ally Giddy. Their teacher has been using the Tigers as an example of how practice makes perfect, and that it takes more than one star player to make a winning baseball team. Ten year Stuart McClosky says he gets it.

Mr. STUART MCCLOSKY (Student): It's not just one person, that everybody can contribute.

HEADLEE: All around metro Detroit, teachers are incorporating baseball themes into their lesson plans. Spanish teachers are using the players' names to practice pronunciation. And Joyce Thompson tells her deaf students that catcher Pudge Rodriquez gives signals to the pitcher that are a lot like sign language.

Ms. JOYCE THOMPSON (Teacher): Yeah, remember Pudge? I told you that before he throw, he signs to him. So he's telling him what to do. Yeah, she was saying they communicate the same with a different language. They have signs also, like you did, same as you.

HEADLEE: Shawn Lewis reports on education for the Detroit Free Press. She was surprised to see so many teachers jumping on the World Series bandwagon. Lewis remembers a very different atmosphere when she was growing up.

Ms. SHAWN LEWIS (Detroit Free Press): If there were something going on outside of school, an activity like a game or something, the students would talk about it amongst ourselves. But once the teacher entered the room, it was more or less silence and then we would start talking about school things. Now students can bring that excitement from their homes and from their friends, and they can actually bring it to the classroom, and teachers are encouraging that.

Mr. ANDY GREEN (Teacher): But what we see as the price goes up, what happens to the demand?

STUDENTS: It goes down.

Mr. GREEN: It goes down. We have less and less people wanting to go to the Tiger game, even though it was a playoff, if the price went up to some of the numbers that they're at right now.

HEADLEE: Andy Green's economics class at Southfield High School is talking about World Series tickets and the concept of supply and demand. Green says he'll use anything to get his kids' attention and keep it. It's no longer possible, he says, to teach according to strict principles and allow some students to fall between the cracks.

Mr. GREEN: That doesn't fly anymore. No Child Left Behind, whether you agree with it or not; the state of Michigan's standardized testing: it is our job to make sure that every child learns and every child gets it.

HEADLEE: At Pierce Middle School, math teachers are having their kids figure out batting averages and earned run averages. And the principal, Gary Buslepp, is telling kids that the Tigers team is a model of diversity, with Americans playing along side Magglio Ordonez from Venezuela and Placido Polonco from Dominican Republic. Buslepp says it's important for his students to hear positive things about the city of Detroit.

Mr. GARY BUSLEPP (Principal, Pierce Middle School): 1967 in Detroit, on my own street I watched tanks, the National Guard jeeps go by during the middle of the day, because of the riots that were occurring less than two miles from my home. And so the Tigers, created in 1968 a sort of a solidarity, a unification, so to speak, of the city. It helped us forget some of our pains, our heartaches, the economy. Some people call that escapism. And whatever it is, sometimes they're healthy.

HEADLEE: The Detroit Tigers are in St. Louis right now. They return to the Motor City over the weekend to wrap up the World Series.

Celeste Headlee, NPR News, Detroit.

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