AES Places 5th in WinterKids Winter Games

By Lura Jackson

 

The elementary school in Alexander is small in the size of its student body, but it more than compensates with the size of its school spirit. Of sixteen schools from all over the state – representing a total of 4,200 students – Alexander Elementary School [AES] came in fifth place in the first annual WinterKids Winter Games, held in the month of January. 

WinterKids is a Portland-based organization that is passionately committed to encouraging winter recreation, better physical health, and closer family interactions in the state’s youth. “We are very, very adamant about reaching the kids who need us the most, who aren't going to be on the slopes at Sugarloaf every week,” said Julie Mulkern, Executive Director of WinterKids. “We want to reach true Maine kids that can use their own landscape and environment to get outside and be active.”

This is the first year that WinterKids has organized the Winter Games, a month of student activities held just before the Winter Olympics. The games involved a series of challenges, including family engagement, nutrition, physical activity, and winter carnival. Each school was provided with a toolkit in December that included wristbands, stickers, and guides on how to implement the games. Webinars and social media enabled the “team captains” to coordinate and plan. “It exceeded our expectations as to the way schools went above and beyond,” said Marion Doyle, Program Director. 

The program encouraged physical activity whenever possible, which prompted teachers to come up with new ways of engaging their students outside. “It’s another way to get out, get your body moving, and learn something while you’re having fun, because if they’re having fun, they don’t realize they’re learning,” said teacher Emma Hill. One fully-outdoor lesson she developed involved teaching the students about snowflakes and their structures.

The participation of every student in each challenge was recorded and the score of each school was tracked on a daily basis. Attendance rate at each school increased, Doyle said. For a time, AES was in the lead, but it wasn’t able to stay on top throughout the month. The final results reveal that the top finishers were all in close range to one another. Dayton Consolidated School came in first with 124 points, Waldo T. Skillin came in second at 121.75, Miles Lane Elementary was third at 121.62, Kingfield Elementary was fourth at 121.50, and Alexander Elementary was in fifth at 119.80. The lowest-scoring school was Fort Fairfield at 57.50. The prize for first place was $5,000, followed by $3,000 for second place, and $1,500 for third. AES placed as an honorable mention, earning it 15 sleds and 10 pairs of snowshoes for students to use on school grounds. 

“We had a lot of fun,” said AES Principal Trevor Flood. “The kids did an excellent job. We found ways to work in physical activity even though the weather wasn’t great.” Flood said that the nutrition portion was particularly helpful since it enabled the school to incorporate lessons related to fresh food from the fall. The school has a garden with four raised beds; they grow garlic, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, and kale. “It’s a good program for them,” Flood said. “This was an opportunity to revisit that.” Olivia’s Organics was a sponsor for the nutrition portion, enabling students to enjoy fresh winter greens and vegetables with no pesticides present. Family engagement was another important facet of the event. AES sent information on healthy eating home to families, tips for reading recipes together, and tips for grocery shopping.

“I hope other schools get to participate next year,” Hill said. Flood agreed, adding that he was looking forward to AES’s participation. “We’ve got some good ideas on how to come in first.”