There’s excitement in the air as Grade 4 Carleton School students spill out of the bus at the Ellenwood Park entrance.
They run down a hill to where a tractor is parked with a load of cross-country skis and begin lashing them on with lots of chatter.
The youngsters are participants in the Kids In Motion Nordic Ski Program - a partnership between The Friends of Ellenwood Park and the Tri-County Regional School Board.
The after-school time period provides an opportunity to increase physical activity levels.
Lori Sigfridson, consultant for health and physical education, says the region’s students are leading the way when it comes to being physically active after-school.
The Kids in Motion after-school program began as a three-way partnership between the Tri-County Regional School Board Health Promoting Schools Initiative, local recreation departments and the Department of Health and Wellness, as a way to get children moving between the hours of 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Offered at different schools throughout the Tri-Counties, the program is designed to help students become familiar with physical activity opportunities within their home community.
“If there’s a place that’s going to keep its snow, it’s typically Carleton,” said Sigfridson.
A study by the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that the Maritimes have some of the highest rates of overweight and obese people in Canada. The nation’s average is 33.6 per cent. In Nova Scotia, 37.5 per cent are overweight.
Programs like Kids in Motion help develop interest in physical activity at an early age.
They provide diverse experiences in different types of physical activities and settings. As the program grows, so have the number of partnerships.
This year is the first for Carleton School to participate in the program. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, beginning in early February, 10 Grade 4 students learned basic Nordic skiing skills on the school soccer field, 2:30 -4:30 p.m.
“The first two weeks, students played a variety of one ski and two ski games that taught the “FUNdamentals” of Nordic skiing,” said Sigfridson.
Recognizing the importance for students to feel engaged and to ignite their desire to be physically active during the winter, volunteer coaches from the Friends of Ellenwood Park encouraged students to participate and have fun while developing the ABCs of skiing (agility, balance and coordination).
Similar to other learn-to-ski programs for children, the objective of the program is for children to learn basic cross-country ski skills and to instill a lifelong interest in being physically active in the outdoors during the winter.
“This could be readily seen on the smiling faces of each student as they developed their skills in a safe and supportive learning environment,” said Sigfridson.
After two weeks of lessons that incorporated obstacle courses, relay events, learning how to fall and get up safely as well as learning climbing and downhill techniques, students were bused to Ellenwood Park for three days to test their skills on groomed trails.
“We’re so fortunate to have been able to partner with Friends of Ellenwood Park. They’ve been fabulous,” she said.