DALLAS -- With all the noise and commotion inside Starlite Lanes on Thursday morning, March 9, the best way to see when a bowler hit a strike was to watch for the celebratory leap.
There were more than a few of those that day as two Whitworth Elementary School classes took over the Dallas bowling center for two hours of pin-striking fun. There were more than a few gutter balls, too, but it was all part of the learning experience.
Whitworth physical education teacher Craig Button took each of the school's fifth-grade classes on the short field trip at the end of a study unit on bowling. Button said his students learn the basic skills in physical education class on a roll out "lane" in the gym at Whitworth. They learned proper technique on the approach and form on the swing and release of the bowling ball.
"We teach the kids the skills in class and come here and apply it," Button said.
Button said the school's parent-teacher association provided the funding for the short field trips, which for some students may be the first time they have been bowling.
For others, it was a fun way to spend the time they would have ordinarily spent in other classes.
"We get to miss math, that's the fun part," said fifth-grader Tianna Coker. "And we get back just in time for recess."
Tianna's classmate, Josie Smith, said she enjoyed the trip because she was learning more about a game that she might not otherwise.
"I think it's fun because you get to learn different sports," she said.
Starlite Lanes owner Loren Faxon said he partnered with the elementary schools several years ago to allow students to bowl on real lanes. He said he hoped that would generate some interest in the sport. So far, he said a few of the students have picked up bowling and joined a junior league.
He added he likes to see the students have a good time during the field trips. He turns on the alley's "cosmic bowling" black lights for a short time while the students are there.
"They love that," Faxon said. "Wait until the lights go out. They all start screaming."
Button, who has coordinated the field trips for two years, said Faxon's willingness to open his bowling alley to students has allowed the school to create a unique program.
"This is really awesome," Button said. "He comes in early and opens up for us."
Students said they enjoyed being able to test their skills in a real bowling alley and learning the rules of the game, but if their reactions are any indication, the best part of learning to bowl is hitting that elusive strike.
One young bowler did leapt into the air and screamed after watching all the pins crash down. Then he skipped his way back to join his classmates with a huge grin on his face.
"Pretty exciting," Button said with a smile.