“It’s to encourage kids who might not be getting out and doing things to try something new,” says Heather Cook, community development coordinator for the Region of Queens Municipality’s Recreation Department.
The plan, says Cook, is for the program to begin as soon as possible.
The After-School Physical Activity Programs are funded through the Nova Scotia Department of Education’s Use of Schools Grants Program. Each school can get $8,251 through a partnership among the South Shore Regional School Board, South Shore Health, Nova Scotia Health and Wellness, and participating schools and recreation departments.
Focus groups held last spring helped to identify activities youth are interested in trying. There were two focus groups, one with 17 students and one with 24.
Cook says students expressed interest in trying a number of things, including, among others, fishing and hunting, boxing, volleyball, football, cycling, rugby, martial arts, Zumba, hip hop, and breakdancing.
“They’re very interested in doing a really broad cross section of activities,” says Cook. “Some are traditional sport activities; some are outdoor oriented.”
Cook is meeting with Mitch Bird, the gym teacher, and Jennifer Spencer-Weare, principal, to begin planning the program. A part-time coordinator is going to be hired to organize and run the programs.
Each activity will run for five to six weeks.
Four schools have been selected for the pilot project, and North Queens Regional School was the only one in Queens County chosen. New Germany High School, Chester Area Middle School and Bridgewater Junior Senior High School are also participating.
According to a recommendation paper submitted to the Committee of the Whole, the grant covers program coordination, program leaders’ salaries, leadership training (if needed), student transportation, janitorial services, equipment, nutritional snacks and other resources. The program is free and will take place at least twice a week.
“I think these sorts of programs are important to expose students to different opportunities in their communities, perhaps some ways to become more active that they may not have thought of,” says Cook.
Students might find something they didn’t know they were passionate about, she adds.
“And being active is an essential part of everyday life.”