WOW Delivers Fitness and Fun
by Dan Mullins
Did you know that winter has wheels? Well, technically it doesn’t, unless your school is participating in the Winter on Wheels program, also known as WOW.
The wheels are on a large trailer that transports cross-country skiing equipment, snowshoes, and floor-curling equipment to schools in the Lester B. Pearson School Board. Scott Taylor, the Board’s Physical Education Consultant, also travels with it, supporting the schools’ P.E. teachers. The equipment stays with a school for two to three weeks. Scott is also available for the duration, though typically he is present more at the beginning than later, when the program is up and running.
While WOW is at an elementary school, the students ski on the school grounds and, when available, adjacent parks. After the first lesson or two, when the students learn the basics of putting the skis on and standing up, they can spend between a half hour and 45 minutes outside skiing during their usual P.E. class.
Cross-country skiing is excellent exercise, working muscles all over the body, improving fitness, and endurance. It’s also a wonderful, therapeutic way to get outside in the sunshine in the winter. “Winter sports can help the winter pass more quickly and enjoyably,” says Taylor.
Skiing can be more difficult for the younger grades, so snowshoeing is also available. For situations where weather doesn’t cooperate, floor curling may be organized in the gym. Floor curling is almost identical to the standard game but is played on floors (as you may have guessed) and with lighter “rocks” on casters.
WOW made its debut last winter with five elementary schools participating and reaching nearly fifteen hundred students. This year they hope for a repeat and have already visited two elementary schools: Dorval Elementary and Westpark. St. Charles and Springdale are next on the list. They also plan to diversify their clientele by taking the program to two high schools, Lakeside High and Pierrefonds Community High, which requires a second complete set of equipment. The pandemic has interfered with deliveries, and therefore with the timeline for introducing WOW to high schools. But Taylor is still optimistic that they will be able to participate this season.
At Dorval Elementary, they had a “dry” start with poor snow conditions (there wasn’t any) before the holiday break. With the help and support of Vicky Tomljanovic and Karen Bolger, Dorval Elementary P.E. teachers, they were able to teach inside in December and then ski outside in January.
Taylor had been thinking of bringing cross-country skiing to elementary schools since he had an opportunity to teach it earlier in his career. However the equipment is quite expensive, storage space is scarce, and not every P.E. teacher is a skier. Taylor thought that bringing the equipment and expertise necessary to schools would be an efficient way to bring this sport to a broader audience. When a suitable grant became available, Taylor was ready. The amount offered was $10, 000 per school, so he recruited five schools and applied for the maximum. The full amount wasn’t provided, but the program got permission to use the school board’s trailer to transport the equipment, reducing the costs, and the WOW program began.
“It is quite a lot of work,” says Taylor, “but when I’m outside with fifty kids in the sun, sometimes I can’t believe I’m paid to do this.”