Pebbles to Boulders: A Little Idea Grows

Twenty-two-year-old Samantha Stouffer is an example of a young lady who has been bitten by the curling bug. As a result of being infected by the sport, she is infecting others around the picturesque rural community of Paris, Ontario. Sam is in fourth year of a concurrent education program working towards her Bachelor of Arts Honours in Contemporary Studies and Bachelor of Education with Sir Wilfred Laurier University and Nipissing University. She needed to complete a placement project, so decided to combine her love of curling with her love of teaching. The curling introduction program for schools she created for the project has blossomed beyond her expectations.

Samantha Stouffer Paris Curling Club (Photo courtesy M. Cooper)

With no formal curling instruction training, Samantha took her knowledge of teaching, combined with what others have taught her about curling, to create an enjoyable introduction to curling for students, which she calls Field Trip Friday. “I took basic information from the Ontario Curling Association website about curling history and terminology to make up a handout booklet,” enthusiastically describes Stouffer. “I even prepared a five-and-a-half-minute video, with funky music, on curling safety and the basics of how to throw a curling rock.” The two-and-a-half-hour field trip visit to the Paris Curling Club involves showing the students how to slide and throw a rock, plus sweeping. A series of drills and activities involving sweeping, scoring, measuring and the short game, make the learning fun. The cost is only $2.00 per visit, to assist with club operating costs. Samantha introduced the idea into the schools with teacher friends she plays soccer with. “I talked to one friend who confirmed a booking with me, then another teacher friend asked. From there I made up little flyers, took them to more schools and then the phone calls started,” recalls Stouffer. So far six schools have signed on. Each group is between 40 to 80 students, from Grades 2 to 8. In total, about 360 kids will have at least two visits to the curling club to experience the fun of curling. Prior to visiting the curling club, Sam goes to the school with her handouts, video and the Capital One Rocks and Rings outfit.

Sam and her favourite curler Jennifer Jones (Photo courtesy M. Cooper)

The love affair with curling started when she was a Little Rocker at about nine years old. In fact, it was Jo-Ann Rizzo, who plays on one of Canada’s top women’s curling teams with skip Sherry Middaugh, who got Samantha’s family curling. When Jo-Ann was teaching elementary school, she took her class to curl at the curling club. Keith Stouffer, Samantha’s older brother, was in that class. That got her parents interested and the whole family started curling as a result. Samantha played Little Rocks for a couple of years, then took a break from curling until Grade 9 in high school. She played skip in each year of high school, was the MVP and eventually guided the team to win the county championships. Sam’s whole family was recognized as the Paris Curling Club ‘Member of the Year’ in 2006, the first time a family has been acknowledged in this way. Her father is President of the club this season. Now that her junior days are behind her, Samantha coordinates the Little Rock, Junior and 4H programs at the club. Creating the Field Trip Friday program was a natural fit. The Field Trip Friday program has even caught the interest of the media. Two local newspapers have done stories about the successful program. Samantha’s ingenuity has attracted attention from her professors at school too. She has been invited to speak to the third year students about her work placement project, which is serving as a best practice example and how to be creative within your area of expertise.

Field Trip Friday sweeping lesson (Photo courtesy M. Cooper)

Sam’s thinking is simple. “Even if these kids do not curl again soon, they may take it up in ten years and curling grows again with each additional curler.” It is amazing to see a little idea for a project grow in such a basic way. Ideas need nurturing and attention and, in this case, a bunch of youngsters and curling are the benefactors. Samantha is a prime example of young energy in the sport of curling. If there are others like her out there, then the future of curling is in good hands. If you know of a Little Rock curling program or a special Little Rocker that has a story to be told, I would be thrilled to hear from you. Contact me at email, [email protected].