After several interviews and secondary research, I’m happy to say my U.S. AOE findings were fascinating, lending great insight about how sports use education to communicate with students about social issues.
The U.S. portion of my AOE research focuses on the Akron Aeros Education Day program. The purpose of the program was revealed by Jeremy Heit as “a way to encourage learning in and outside of the classroom with the reward of game experience at the end.”
“Baseball is education”
Jeremy Heit, Aeros Education Day program coordinator
It was important to hear from teachers who have come in contact with the Education Day program. Three area teachers were willing to share their experience.
A major finding from the interviews surrounds the actual use of the curriculum. Although the lesson plans are thorough, it is difficult to incorporate because of the need to cover specific topics related to Ohio common core state testing.
“Anything that has to do with the game and putting it into the curriculum is neat and different”
Stacy Nedolast, Bucthel CLC, Intervention Specialist
One of the more interesting findings revolves around the actual Education Day game. What seems like a normal day game is actually filled with various education stations and in game activities keeping up with the all-inclusive learning theme. For some this is the one and only time out of Kent and the first time experiencing a baseball game. Christi Bates, Holden Elementary, touched upon the idea of “socialization of being around friends” and “having independence in a safe setting.” What seemed like just an academic experience actually serves as a chance for kids to take part in real-life situations.
So What’s the Connection to PR?
The Aeros Director of Media and Public Relations Adam Lieberman answered this question. The greatest finding from the interview revolved around the idea of branding. Lieberman shared the connection to branding explaining “we want to provide a worthwhile yet educational experience for students along with something that teachers/principals will agree to.” Providing a legitimate program is the ultimate goal, which aligns with the overarching branding of affordable, family fun.
The program has been around for several years and it practically speaks for itself! No need to run to The Beacon for press because word of mouth works perfectly. The Aeros do tweet about the game and share pictures on Facebook but it’s the result of others sharing their fun experience at the ballpark.
In addition to branding, community relations was the overarching theme. Defined as “an overall strategy that not only supports the business interests of an organization but also contributes to organizational efforts to meet its responsibility to support the welfare of the community,” (Ledingham & Bruning, 2001) community relations falls in line with the Aeros promise to support the rising city. All efforts are toward shifting the perception from negative to positive with new ownership playing a key role.
My U.S. research revealed the program used education to encourage students to learn, improve testing, and briefly touches upon social issues.
Moving Forward: U.K. Plan
The goal with my U.K. plan is to understand the role of football in London, the effects of racism, and the success of Kick It Out’s efforts in the community. The Freedom and Football Education pack is used to teach about the history of South Africa and racism through football using the 2010 World Cup as motivation.
What can be learned from the Freedom and Football Education Pack?
How can the U.K. culture be used as an example to address and teach controversial social issues to students?
How does Kick It Out impact the surrounding community?