Contributed by Andrew Gulyas
Elkford Secondary School
This school year brought a lot of changes to the landscape of the typical gym class. At Elkford Secondary School, this meant the typical one hour gym class for half the year are now three hours for a quarter of the year.
It also meant suggestions from the Ministry of Education that more classes be outside, and that students are not to play traditional close contact types of games or sports.
It also meant that when going through the hallways, students must wear masks, and that they must social distance from others not in their cohorts.
There is a sense of segregation between students and teachers.
Teachers that were once met with smiles and high fives are behind glass and masks.
A sense of connection to school and community may be somewhat diminished with needed rules and regulations.
This year, students at Elkford Secondary have been outside with everything from disc golf, to hiking and building survival shelters.
Where the new changes have truly allowed this class to blossom and find its way, has been the freedom the extended class time has provided.
This extra time has allowed students to give back to their community and find enrichment in their learning with stewardship and service learning in their PE program.
Students have been going out and helping their community as well as active living clubs and societies.
In late September, students picked up garbage along trails that a lot of students take to buy snacks from a nearby convenient store, as well as cleaned up their late night weekend gathering spots.
In early October, students climbed Wapiti ski hill to clear problematic brush on a few main ski runs.
Recently, students walked from the school to Boivin Cabin (a seven kilometre round trip), where they stained and painted the backcountry building.
This initiative was not by accident and it is hoped that it can fill a gap of loss that we are in right now,.
After isolation and now with social distancing and cohorts in schools, there might be a lack of connection to place, a sense of suspended balance as students roam their halls and socially distance from their long time neighbors.
The initial idea behind this initiative was to show senior students how to support their community and how they can support active living volunteer organizations.
The hope is that through these experiences, this will support students in helping to build healthy and active communities of the future.
The other side of this initiative is that through the stewardship and service learning activities, students will feel physically connected to their contributions, anchoring them to a sense of place within their community thereby enriching positive connections to their changed landscape of community.
In order for this community building initiative to begin, it was supported by local organizations.
I would like to thank the Lions Club for their Transportation Grant. With their support we were able to pay for a bus to the Wapiti Ski Hill.
I would also like to thank the Wapiti Ski Club and the Nordic Society, for allowing students the opportunity to give back to their community and use their tools and materials.
Lastly, I would like to thank the students, they were willing to climb mountains, hike into the wilderness and work to support their community.