District partnership bringing new experiences to students

Bringing athletics into the classroom, a new partnership is gaining strength in Garland ISD. Last year, fifth-graders from eight elementary schools received the opportunity to attend high school basketball games during the Curtis Culwell Invitational. Twelve elementaries and more than 1,200 fifth-grade students were invited to this year’s tournament.

“In elementary school, students have the opportunity to learn basketball skills, but they rarely have the chance to transfer those learned skills into an actual game,” said PE coordinator Louise Gartrell. “This allows students to see talented athletes use the skills that they are learning in their PE classes and put it all together into a game setting.”

A partnership between Athletics and Curriculum and Instruction, it not only provides a real-world connection to learning. It also provides many students' first exposure to an athletic event.

“Many of the elementary kids have not been to a high school sporting event and may not be aware of the opportunities that are available in athletics when they enter middle and high school,” commented Assistant Athletic Director Judy Campbell. “It is my hope that the students will want to come back to a game and will bring their parents, siblings, etc.”

Campbell also hopes this opportunity shows that a school district does not operate independently, but as a team. She helps spearhead the collaborative effort along with Gartrell and Rowlett High School Girls Basketball Coach Alexis Hill. Together, the trio coordinates all logistics and covers all costs to ensure this special field trip is both fun and informational. It begins with RHS Future Teacher Internship (FTI) students arriving at participating campuses to serve as added chaperones. Volunteer coaches then transport students to the game, where they get a free front-row seat as GISD teams face off. Some students even get the courtside experience, helping with warm-ups and half-time.

“I saw a lot of interesting things, and I had lots of fun. I got to take pictures with basketball players,” said court kid Kemond Cottrell.

In the end, it doesn’t matter which team wins or loses. Everyone involved ends up on top. And though the coordination requires much effort, seeing all the smiles walking out of the arena makes every bit worthwhile.

“One of the best memories is hearing the cheers from the stands coming from elementary students,” commented Hill. “The basketball players love hearing the cheers and signing autographs and feeling appreciated and loved!”

This partnership has proved to be such a success that additional opportunities are now being piloted. Every Rowlett elementary school will be invited to a girls basketball game at RHS this season.