If you ask most kids what they like best about school, they usually say recess. Well, duh. If kids had their way they’d build their schools on a ski slope, and go shushing down the hills in between classes. Oh, their wacky imaginations. Or is it?
Allow me to introduce you to B.C.’s Sun Peaks school, where, you guessed it, students have to take a magic carpet up the hill to get their daily education.
You’d think it might be a distraction, looking out the window at the fresh snow while the teacher drones on. Think again. According to kindergarten teacher Lynn Maartman, as quoted in a Globe and Mail article about this unique school, “the children are more focused. They need very little encouragement to get active. And they don’t seem to have the behaviour problems I’ve experienced when teaching in a more urban setting.”
In fact, boasts the school, though it’s difficult to measure overall academic performance due to the small size of the student body, there have been notable individual successes. For instance, one high-school student diagnosed with ADHD “was just scraping by” in an urban setting before coming to Sun Peaks. Now that same student is excelling; they’re even testing him for giftedness.
That’s certainly a compelling case for sending your child to “ski school”, but Sun Peaks offers more than just slopes, including valuable opportunities for unstructured play, as the children use the creeks, rocks, and sticks to form home-made forts and bridges.
Another benefit to Sun Peaks is that their lack of a traditional playground forces the students to be imaginative, as well as learn how to share, problem solve, and work together in a natural environment.
Sun Peaks clearly has what it takes to keep kids engaged and active, and you don’t have to be a ski lover to want to emulate their approach. How do we accomplish this without building another school on the hill? We need to try to design playgrounds that encourage more creativity and are developed to stimulate time exploring nature’s malleable materials. We need to recognize the benefits of daily physical activity and schedule more than standard gym programming into our education system. If we do that, maybe we make the uphill climb for kids a little easier.
Do you have suggestions on how to create like-minded schools? Let us know.