Canoes help students cruise to a brighter future


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July 8, 2014 10:49 AM

E.S. Laird School is now the proud owners of eight new canoes for the use of their students. This school is very well known for its fitness regiments and how far it will go to match fitness needs with intellectual needs for a more rounded and healthy student body. June 25, a few students, faculty and benefactors gathered for a small ceremony during the lightly falling rain to officially present the canoes to the school. Everyone was thrilled with the gift provided by local businesses. Back row: Destiny Holowachuk, head canoe fundraiser; Delia Morgan-Tetz, Agland; Jack Klamot and Kim Olson, Sandpiper Truck Services; Dewight Holzinger, TNT Tank & Trailer; Jim Holowachuk, Cinco Developments LTD; Bill Kruining, ASL Paving LTD; Jason Reinhart, Reinhart Industrial and Commercial Development; Brian Morrison, Border City Concrete; J.R., Classic Oilfield Ltd.; Neil Wilkinson, Darv’s Auto Body; Morgan Mann, counsellor at E.S. Laird Middle School; Tara Strelezki, Grade 9 teacher at E.S. Laird Middle School; Shawn Donald, art teacher at E.S. Laird Middle School. Missing from the picture is: Richard Leyen, Wizard Well Servicing and Paul Klaassen, PWM Steel. The rest are students of E.S. Laird Middle School. - Tom Pierson Photo

E.S. Laird Middle School likes their students to be fit in body and in mind. Besides making for a more balanced lifestyle, it is also very fun and rewarding. A small group gathered for coffee and donuts in the schoolyard June 25 to celebrate the generosity of local businesses who sponsored eight canoes.

“Sometimes I think our young people get a bad rap for technologies around their cellphones and video gaming,” teacher Morgan Mann said. “Our outdoor ed. program here at E.S.Laird is probably our most popular sports class and we took these canoes to Meadow Lake last week and these guys loved being outdoors.

“For us to have this and to know that for many years to come, our young people will be able to get outdoors and hopefully start to have that same passion for being outdoors and being active, and enjoying nature. It’s really an incredible thing.”

Mann was speaking about the group of eight canoes sponsored by local businesses to give the students a well rounded and balanced lifestyle that they can take with them for the rest of their lives.

“Destiny (Holowachuk) came and dropped off pamphlets, with all the information on sponsorship, for these canoes,” Bill Kruining of ASL Paving Ltd. Like the other sponsors for this project, Kruining was hooked and didn’t need any more convincing.

“We made a donation for one whole canoe setup,” said Kruining, “and that includes life jackets and paddles.”

Speaking on behalf of the school, one of the driving forces for this canoe project, Mann was happy to say, “I am one of the teachers with our outdoor education program. Tara Strelezki and I team teach the Grade 9 options outdoor Ed program. We both have a real strong interest in getting students out of the classroom and educating them outdoors and getting them out into real life.”

The bottom line here is to get the students out to do things to see what nature has to offer.

“We are doing a lot of things,” said Mann. “Canoeing is one of our favourite activities to do with the students.

“We find the young people love canoeing, and so, we thought to do more, or in order to have access to the canoes when we want them, we thought, wouldn’t it be neat if we could have our own set of canoes.” That was the beginning of trying to put this together last fall.

In order to raise funds for the canoe project, the students and faculty tried several methods of fundraising, such as popcorn sales and bake sales. That was when reality hit.

“We realized we are going to need to go to our business community,” said Mann.

“That’s when Destiny (Holowachuk) came along. She’s a former student of ours here at E.S. Laird, and she is a year away from being in the classroom herself,” said Mann, who described her as a student who enjoyed being outdoors. “When we took this idea to her, she helped us just run with it.”

When Holowachuck came on board, it only took her a few weeks to bring it all together.

Partnering with local businesses seems to be something schools are needing to do more of as time goes by.

“We are very grateful to be able to have these canoes here today,” said Mann.

The canoes arrived 10 days before this little ceremony, and three days later the students enjoyed a trip with them to Meadow Lake. Since then, they had Rick Strelezki weld a canoe trailer, so now they are fully operational.

There are no plans to make better use of the canoes through the summer months, but Mann said they are open to possibilities because of such a short spring season, and a short fall season. He said they would like to get more use out of the canoes than just a few short weeks in spring and fall.

When talking about E.S. Laird’s propensity for active living, indoors and out, “There is endless literature and research being done on the benefits of having young people active,” said Mann. “What that translates into is their success in the classroom. There is a correlation there.”

Getting past the simple truth of how keeping active keeps the students fit, an activity such as canoeing or other sporting activity, “It is not only good for them physically, but socially and mentally as well,” said Mann, adding the opportunities are there to build relationships. “And it just makes them more successful in the classroom.

“We do have a strong emphasis on having our students as active as possible, said Mann. “(We thank the partners) who gave generously to us so we could have these canoes. We really appreciate it.”

In fact, the students got themselves together and presented the business owners with thank you gifts that were very graciously received.

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