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STEM lessons in full swing through First Green program at Westminster National Golf Course

Emily Chappell
Contact ReporterCarroll County Times

Eldersburg Elementary School fifth-graders crowded around a handful of stations at Westminster National Golf Course on Tuesday, each learning about the different aspects that make a golf course work.

Some of the students learned about soil and roots, others about types of grass and seeds. At one station, students saw someone hit a ball using different clubs, and then went to measure the lengths and convert the distance to yards.

And while one station’s main focus was learning how to putt, and having fun, the majority of them focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — STEM themes.

“Golf course superintendents have to be highly trained in STEM to do their job and that’s what we’re teaching the kids,” Ryan Kraushofer, the superintendent and general manager of Westminster National and the vice president of the Mid-Atlantic Association of Golf Course Superintendents, said.

Kraushofer said Tuesday’s field trip was through the First Green program. The program, according to a news release from the school system, “is an innovative environmental education outreach program using golf courses as environmental learning labs.” First Green has been providing this type of education since 1997, according to the release.

While many may think science is related to keeping up golf courses, math is also an important part of the job, Kraushofer said, especially when figuring out laying seed, sod, fertilizer and nutrients.

“We need to know exactly how much we’re putting out in a certain area,” he said.

For 10-year-old Carter Burchett, the field trip was “fun,” and he said he got to learn about the different types of grass and soil. He particularly liked touching the different grasses.

“It felt like silk it was so soft,” he said.

Carter said he doesn’t really play golf, though he’s hit some balls in his backyard before, and was excited to get to learn how to putt on Tuesday.

Kraushofer said the kinds of lessons learned during the trip are different than what a student can learn in the classroom, which is why the golf course likes to participate.

“This is a great opportunity to bring them out, it’s a way to give back to the community,” he added.

And, it’s an avenue to teach the students about golf as a sport, which makes the day a cross-curricular field trip.

“They might take up the game of golf … it might spark their interest in going to turf school or coming to work on a golf course when they’re old enough,” he said.

Those are the reasons why Brandy Hunt, the physical education teacher at Eldersburg Elementary, helped to make Tuesday’s trip happen. A colleague told her about the opportunity, and Hunt said there was also a professional development meeting on the topic.

Hunt said she thought the students were “super excited” to be at each of the stations, adding that the field trip really allows them to understand how a golf course works.

Kraushofer said the Eldersburg Elementary class is just one of many field trips coming this year to the golf course. There are two more trips planned for the fall, he said, and the golf course is already booked for the spring.

“We try to do as many as we can,” he added.

emily.chappell@carrollcountytimes.com

443-805-9691

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