SUMMERSTOWN — The Summerstown Trails – or at least some of the equipment that enhances the great outdoors in winter – could soon be coming to a school near you.
Thinking outside the forest this pandemic year, while school field trips are on hold, the Friends of the Summerstown Trails have embarked on a new program that brings snowshoes to kids. “Snowshoeing in the city” is how board member Jean-Pierre Tibi has described the effort.
And this is how École élémentaire catholique Notre-Dame student Mia Provost on Thursday described this week’s urban snowshoeing experience: “Walking with snowshoes in lots of snow is great fun, but sometimes difficult! My teacher organized team games with snowshoes and my favorite game was the scavenger hunt in the snow.”
The friends have been hearing quite a few similar comments, although, in a perfect world, those beautiful trails out in South Glengarry would be welcoming the youngsters.
Tibi said that in a normal year, the Friends would be hosting upwards of 1,000 kids for half-day outings, usually anywhere from 14 to 16 schools from Cornwall and surrounding area taking advantage of the opportunity. Plan B is pretty good, though, a drop-off program where snowshoes are taken to schools for use if they have a nearby park or area where students and teachers can go for a walk.
This week, students from grades 2 to 6 at Notre-Dame have been giving those snowshoes a good workout. Not only did most of the children get to try snowshoeing for the first time, but the gym teachers at the school, Éloïse Benoît, Chantal Dubuc, and Mélanie Bouchard, organized fun snowshoe games, and classes were also invited to use the equipment during any period that they were not used for gym.
Vice-principal Julie Bellavance said the activities were also part of the school’s specialized sports program – JAB (acronym for J’aime apprendre en bougeant; meaning : I love to learn while moving!)
Student Malyx Bergeron-Dinelle called the experience a “great introduction to a new sport,” and Matteo Ritchie said “snowshoeing is a good physical activity. . . the team games outside were great fun!”
Those snowshoes travel well – last week they were in Long Sault, and next week it’s off to Alexandria.
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“Rather than having all this equipment sit idle, we decided to think outside the box and came up with this drop-off program for the schools,” said Lorraine Clarke, leader for the program and herself a retired teacher.
Schools can keep the gear for a week, or try it out for just a day or two.
“We only started announcing this program when the lockdown was lifted, and already five schools have signed up, and a few others are working on dates,” Clarke said.
Said FOTST president Vic Leroux: “I’m very happy to see that the students are getting outdoors and enjoying the snow. I’m so glad that this service is being offered for our youth. It makes me very proud to be part of the Summerstown Trails community.”
But the Summerstown Trails are also welcoming visitors. With the region in Orange, the weekend rental program of equipment (skis, snowshoes and fat bikes) began again last Saturday.