Outdoors is fun for kids of all ages! Tanner Hinkley and Lanie Roy take one of the LL Bean tubes for a spin.

Middle school youth from Strong and Phillips gather atop the slope adjacent to Phillips Elementary School while Mr. Thompson goes over safety rules and proper use of equipment before the sliding – with tubes, sleds, and toboggans – begins. Paula Kane

PHILLIPS — There’s no such thing as too much snow at Phillips Elementary School, which boasts one of the best sliding hills in the area. Recently, this slope has been the site of even more activity than usual. In addition to regular use by physical education classes and students on recess, the hill hosted middle students from both Phillips and Strong during a special event sponsored by WinterKids.

WinterKids (https://winterkids.org/about-winterkids/) is “the only nonprofit in Maine dedicated exclusively to increasing outdoor physical activity in children and families during our longest, most sedentary season. The shorter, darker, and colder days of winter and the increasing allure of screen time make it all too easy for kids and families to ‘hibernate’. At WinterKids, we make it our business to provide kids, parents, and teachers with the right option: to get outside, get active, and have fun in the winter – and year-round.”

Kawika Thompson, PE teacher at Phillips and Strong, talks about WinterKids in MSAD 58: “MSAD 58 schools had received grant monies from the program to purchase winter equipment or to conduct Winter-like activities for kids to enjoy the outdoors. Several MSAD 58 schools have looked at equipment purchases of sleds, tubes, snowshoes, cross country skis, as well as school trips that transportation costs can be absorbed by the grant monies rather than be taken from an existing limited school budget. Strong and Phillips Elementary Schools have chosen to collaborate and take advantage of their own local resource on the hills at Phillips. Grant money made it possible for the middle school grades to be transported, gather for an hour on the hills at Phillips and enjoy some hot cocoa and cookies after their time spent together.

“Teachers from both schools spoke of how well both schools got along and had lots of fun! One teacher exclaimed, ‘If we just had a little more time, the kids were just beginning to mingle, share and enjoy their time together!'”

Mr. T., as he is more familiarly known by the students, went on to say, “Winter Kids is an excellent program and a wonderful resource of ideas, concepts and activities for our kids, teachers, schools and communities. If you don’t think climbing a hill lugging a sled for several runs is not physical activity, then I challenge you to take a kid and try to keep up, all while trying to wipe the perma-grin on your face from the pure enjoyment of being a kid!”

Plans to conduct similar activities with the Phillips and Strong Pre-K through 2, and grades 3 and 4 were also on the agenda but inclement weather, including cold temperatures and a school cancellation, put those plans on hold for the time being.

“Plans are being made for make-up dates soon!” Mr. T. assured one and all.

Also in the works for the near future is an adventure to Black Mountain of Maine in Rumford.

Another group taking extra advantage of this particular natural resource on the school property are members of Let’sGo!Outdoors. Let’sGo!Outdoors is a local offshoot of MaineHealth’s 5-2-1-0/Let’s Go program, “an obesity prevention initiative working with communities to create environments that support healthy choices. Bringing evidence-based strategies for healthy living into schools, child care and out-of-school programs, health care practices, and workplaces, Let’s Go! reaches children and adults where they live, learn, work, and play.” (https://mainehealth.org/lets-go/about)

Mt. Abram PE/health teacher and former PE teacher at Phillips, Lanie Roy, believes the biggest benefits of this project are getting outside, being active, and having fun. The program ran on Thursdays through January up to February break.

“I believe this is very beneficial for overall health, especially this time of year,” Roy stated, also giving “a BIG shout out to Dawn and all her volunteers who help.”

This outdoor winter program was started five years ago, with just Roy, one other adult helper, and only students from grades 3 – 5. Tubes for sliding came from LL Bean and funds from a PEP (Carol M. White Physical Education Program) grant which “provides grants to LEAs and community-based organizations (CBOs) to initiate, expand, or enhance physical education programs, including after-school programs, for students in kindergarten through 12th grade”(http://insightgrants.com/findgrants/pep-grants/).

After joining forces two years ago with the Phillips after-school program, under the direction of Dawn (Haines) Fidler, Outdoors now includes students from Kindergarten through grade 8 and many wonderful volunteers. Fidler is assisted by Mariah Kendall, Mel Galusha, and Madison White, along with various volunteers.

This after-school program is yet another benefit of grant funding, this one from 21st Century Kids of F.R.A.N.K.L.I.N. and Northern F.R.A.N.K.L.I.N. After School Programs. A partnership with the Franklin County Children’s Task Force and the MSAD #58 school district makes this free program available to elementary students who are entering Kindergarten through 8th grade in Strong, Kingfield, and Phillips Elementary Schools. Research shows, states the website (https://fcctf.org/21st-century-kids-program/), “that 21st Century programs can support working families by keeping children engaged and safe during the hours after school.” The group, which averages between 30 to 50 youngsters, meets Monday through Thursday from 2:45 – 4 p.m., during which time members may take advantage of assistance with homework, physical activities (like Let’sGo!Outdoors), and a variety of academic enrichment activities such as yesterday’s visit from the Elks, who came to read to the students and present each with a book. And they get healthy snacks, too!

 

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