Erin District High School (EDHS) is adding equipment to its outdoor education program.
Last month the school received the final installment of a $20,000 Physical Activity in Secondary Schools grant from the province. Now, the school has 20 new mountain bikes, including helmets, purchased last spring, and 32 pairs of new cross-country skis with boots and poles to match, purchased last month.
“Because our school budget, because we’re (a) small school, we don’t get very much of the pie; we would never be able to afford that quantity of equipment,” said EDHS athletic director Jocelyn Wombwell. “That would take us a lot of years of using every dollar of our budget to try to get that.”
The grant is meant to “increase the number of secondary students participating in physical activities outside of instructional time,” according to the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association website.
For EDHS, the goal of the grant equipment, as well as the school philosophy, is to expose students and the school community to activities they can do outside of the school atmosphere, Wombwell said.
“It’s meant to open as many doors as possible for people who may not have access to that equipment,” she explained.
In addition to using the skis and bikes for outdoor education classes, physical education classes and other classes for winter games, Wombwell said she hopes to use the equipment for intramural activities.
“We’re hoping to … rejuvenate the mountain biking program here, a club team and maybe even a cross country ski team because (of) the fact that we have a trail,” she said.
Because the equipment is so new, those programs are not yet in place.
The grant came as a huge excitement to the school community, Wombwell said. She thinks it was the small school and small physical education budget as well the outdoor education program offered that might have set EDHS apart from other applicants.
“Our budget for physical education is significantly smaller (than bigger schools) but we still offer a lot of different programs and so we want to have a way to give that equipment and give kids exposure to that equipment – but how do you pay for it?” she said “So grants like this are hugely important to small schools.”
EDHS is also one of very few schools that offers the outdoor education program, a course that shifts away from traditional gymnasium activities.
“Students are basically being trained in outdoor wilderness,” Wombwell said. “(It’s) really good for kids who are working to develop their leadership skills and team dynamics.”
The program is not offered in many schools because of the demands on the teacher.
“There’s a risk a management and you have to make sure you have people who are qualified to actually teach it,” Wombwell explained. “There’s a lot of credentials that the teacher has to have in order to run a safe program for the kids.”
Those factors put EDHS in a prime position to receive the grant and with the Elora Cataract Trailway running behind the school there will be plenty of opportunity of the school community to use the skis and the bikes.