Kikino puts the Ski in Skilled learning
Monday, Mar 20, 2017 03:29 pm
The school hosted its annual Ski Day last Wednesday, where kids of all ages applied their skills in cross-country skiing, planting their feet and pushing on ski poles throughout the school’s three-acre playing field in the back of the K-to-8 school.
Kikino also let visiting students and staff members from Pekan School in Whitefish First Nation - located in Goodfish - join them for the day’s events. Ski Fit North, a program affiliated with Cross-Country Alberta also came to the school accompanied by a mascot and prominent advertising for their sponsor Atco Energy.
Other than the presence of outsiders, this would in many ways be an ordinary Wednesday for the children, who have regularly incorporated skiing into their curriculum, and have the facilities inside the school with lockers and skis and poles to fully equip the students.
The school even does dry land training when winter is over. Longtime cross-country ski coach Les Parsons, whose resume includes five Olympic games and whose athletes coached includes Olympic gold medal winner Becky Scott and current world champion Alex Parsons, said this school in particular has really taken up the idea of it being a “ski school.”
“It’s the number one lead school in the province for leadership and co-ordination,” he said.
Laurie Thompson, Kikino School’s principal, said the program started seven years ago and has been a great success.
With the help of Ski Fit North coach Andrew Urton and grant money, the school went from doing two ski days its first year to one or two more its second year and after that it became weekly.
“It puts joy on some our toughest kids’ faces,” said Thompson, who said she saw the benefits of the program when she saw an angry Grade 1 child who was drawn to laughter and happiness once he put on skis.
“After that he started participating in school more,” she said.
Another unique part of the school’s program is the “ski leaders,” otherwise known as a group of Grade 4 to 8 students at Kikino who play a crucial role in organizing the program, with the Grade 7s and 8s providing a mentorship role to the incoming Grade 4s.
White said they play a crucial role in the program.
Students also have the opportunity to become more competitive, by joining the Kikino Northern Lights Nordic Ski Club, which is most often taken part in by the ski leaders.
But White is keen to stress that the program at the school is for fun and exercise.
“It’s more casual,” he said. “We don’t bring the competitive aspects, as we don’t want to discourage anyone. There is additional ski time for those interested.”
Thompson is particularly keen to stress the mental health aspects of the program.
“It’s all about children’s mental health,” she said. “We’re a ski school because that’s the importance I place on kids’ mental health.”
The program has particularly meant something to Parsons. Despite his accomplished resume in cross-county skiing, Parsons said the experience of watching hundreds of Kikino students skiing, sliding falling and smiling is even more meaningful.
“This is better,” he said. “I’ve coached in five Olympics and I don’t regret it, but this has purpose.”