By Darren Lum
Published June 28 2018
The sunny blue sky day was a fitting reflection of the efforts of the Grade 7s and 8s at Archie Stouffer Elementary School who started constructing their yet-to-be-named outdoor fitness park on June 19 at the back of the school.
The construction project to erect nine outdoor exercise stations to improve health and test fitness was the idea of ASES teacher Jennifer Mills who learned of Vita Parcours. Vita Parcours is a European concept of a series of exercise stations on a trail. Although this idea was inspired by Vita Parcours this park will not be on a trail but rather in one location at the foot of the hill at the back of the school. She said the decision to place the stations in one location was to ensure students could be supervised when they use it during school hours.
Mills thought this idea would not only be an enjoyable experience for her 27 students but could connect with the students in way that is more engaging than theoretical lessons. The students were responsible for designing planning and installing the stations (with help).
Also she could envision the benefits of hands-on learning for her students who would use their curriculum knowledge for practical purposes whether it’s measuring or evaluating surface area.
The project not only teaches the students how to work together and covers the curriculum specifically science structures mathematics and health and fitness but will stand as the classes’ legacy. From their own experience recording their own physical activity the students learned about what exercise apparatus would be best to test or train other individuals on.
The students received a taste of the trades with this experience. Knowing all their efforts would be seen motivated them.
“Actually seeing the project come to life and actually using the stuff we learn in class and using it in real life I think is really important for them to see. Some of them are just shining at this. You can see some of them would be amazing at a trade if they wanted to go into it” Mills said.
Health is a life-long investment and this park could benefit everyone who uses it she said.
“Fitness is something they need to do for their whole life so hopefully they bring their families here in the summer or any time they can use these stations. They’re good for all ages and work on all fitness components” she said.
Mills said this project wouldn’t have been possible without the TLDSB Trustee’s Program Enhancement Fund grant. She applied at the start of the year and learned she would receive $2000 in November. This grant has funded other such projects at other schools in the board and is awarded to improve student engagement and achievement.
In addition to the grant this project was possible because of the in-kind donations and the discounts provided by area businesses and local groups. The list of support includes Haliburton Timber Mart’s Greg Scheffee Minden Rent-all RM Carpentry’s Ritchie Mills Hydro One’s Alec Little and Darren Mills of Mills Custom Contracting.
This student group will also be designing constructing and installing signage along the forested trails used by the school for cross-country running located up the hill and behind the school. It will offer anyone using the trail suggestions for a series of fitness activities with instructions. This concept has been done in other communities and it was time for Minden to have one Mills said.
Mills sees families going for a walk performing the activities such as “high-knees” on the trail and then ending their experience at the fitness park.
“It can involve everyone and it’s not something we have in our community right now” she said. “I thought it would be a good thing to have at our school. Our school could use it for their phys-ed (to enhance their phys-ed program) and also the community” she said.
As an example of how the park is inclusive anyone can use the chin-up bar which is accessible for children and adults.
Next year she wants the returning Grade 7s to be the lead on their respective stations.
They can teach others how to use it.
The investment and commitment by the students she said really took hold when they realized this project was open to the public and possibly used by everyone.
“They were way more into the drawings researching online what this will look like and so I got way more out of them” she said.
The success of this effort was dependent on the accuracy of their math particularly when it came to measuring and evaluating.
“They really got into it because it was something they knew they were going to build” she said.
When asked about how this can be a legacy project for the students Mills said “When they leave this is something they can still come back and it’s something they built here.”