WESTBROOK — It was a medal-worthy performance for Canal School in this year’s WinterKids Winter Games.

Staff from WinterKids, a Westbrook-based organization that helps kids stay active and healthy during the winter, were at Canal School last week to present staff and students with a $1,500 award for earning the bronze medal in the month-long competition.

The announcement came as a surprise to students and staff who thought Principal Vickie Hebert had gathered them in the gymnasium for a dance party.

“You have done an incredible amount of work and we are proud of you,” WinterKids Executive Director Julie Mulkern said as she announced the school’s ranking and its Best Use of Literacy award for its story walks and other literacy-related elements.

The only schools among the 28 competitors that accumulated more points were Searsport Elementary in Searsport and Ames Elementary in Searsmont. Canal didn’t finish lower than fourth in any of the weekly competitions, which included physical activities, nutrition, parent engagement and winter carnival challenges.

Nearly 8,000 students and 750 teachers participated in the competition, in its second year of helping elementary schools find ways to get students active and healthy during the winter

“Engagement in outdoor play, activities and learning is so important at the elementary school level. The goal is to get the entire school and entire school community to embrace winter and find healthy ways to enjoy it,” Mulkern told the American Journal last month before the competition kick-off.

School librarian Susie Brown, one of the organizers of Canal’s Winter Games, said the prize money may be used to improve the playground. Hebert said students have also asked to go on a field trip to a tubing park. 

While Brown and her fellow organizers, school nurse Ann Brown and physical education teacher Jami Murphy, planned weeks-worth of activities for students and staff, she said it was great to see staff branching out on their own and finding ways to link their classroom teaching and the outdoors. Hebert said the school tried to have 10 events planned for students every week, but teachers and staff went above and beyond that.

“I think teachers got an awareness of what they could do outside,” Susie Brown said.

Some teachers, for example, brought their students out to paint letters in the snow, compete in sentence scrambles or take story walks. Ann Brown said Sadie Perkins brought her class outside to lay in the snow and create the alphabet with their bodies, a project that resulted in an alphabet book of winter words. As part of the nutrition week, students learned about healthy recipes and took turns using a blender bike.

During the competition, students also took a walk to see the ice disk, made cookbooks of their favorite recipes, learned about the winter adaptations of animals, participated in fitness sessions every Friday morning and built snowmen. They even sorted plastic food into their respective food groups on a large plate that Murphy had drawn in the snow, an activity that earned Canal School bonus points during Week 2.

Grace Dube, a third-grader, said she particularly enjoyed going outside for scavenger hunts and sledding down the hill made for Canal School by students at Westbrook Regional Vocational Center. 

Hebert said she hopes some of the activities can continue in the Canal School curriculum and expand to other schools.

“The inaugural year was beyond our expectations and this year surpassed the first, ” Mulkern said. “The goals nearly 8,000 kids and 765 teachers were able to set and then achieve has been amazing to watch, and we are so very proud of these Maine communities. This is an exciting way to get kids excited about being active and learning outdoors in the winter and living healthier lifestyles.”

For a video of Canal School’s WinterKids Winter Games activities throughout January, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZQ-jmp3P4Q&feature=youtu.be

Michael Kelley can be reached at 780-9106 or [email protected] or on Twitter @mkelleynews.

First-graders Leighlon Moody, Tye Nye, Julia Sarazin and Lily Richards enjoy the snow during Canal School’s participation in WinterKids’ annual Winter Games competition.

Kindergarten teacher Hannah Gundersdorf leads her students on a story walk of Maine author Chris Van Dusen’s “Learning to Ski with Mr. McGee” as part of the school’s participation in this year’s Winter Games. The school finished third in the competition and was awarded $1,500.

K-8 School Resource Officer Sandy Mailman engages students in a game of Red Light, Green Light in the bus loop outside Canal School. Mailman was one of the community members who helped the school in its pursuit for gold in the 2019 WinterKids Winter Games.

The sledding hill, constructed by students at Westbrook Regional Vocational Center, was a popular place for Canal School students last month during the Winter Games competition.

Students and staff were surprised one afternoon with an intercom announcement by Principal Vickie Hebert telling everyone to stop whatever they were doing and head outside to make snowmen. 

Students and staff from Canal School pose with WinterKids staff and city and school officials after winning the bronze in WinterKids Winter Games, a weeks-long outdoor activity and nutrition competition.

Canal School Librarian Susie Brown high-fives students after WinterKids staff announced the school had finished third and won $1,500 in the Winter Games competition.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: