AMHERST – Move. A single word with the power to change lives.
“It’s already started,” said Rachael Bird, who’s heading up Cumberland YMCA’s Youth on the Move After School program.
Kids have been participating in the physical activity program, which ends in June, for three weeks.
“It’s targeted to youth between (ages) 10 and 14,” said the coordinator.
Seven schools across the county are running Youth on the Move twice each week, and participating students are also drawn from ‘feeder’ schools (the Amherst base is E.B. Chandler Junior High School). More than a hundred kids took part the first week.
It’s free to participate, and students take part in events such as ice-breakers and team-building, and an activity, such as hiking, snowshoeing or a treasure hunt that aims to provide 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity. Overseeing the sites are primarily Grade 12 students, with professionals brought in for introductions to things like yoga, zumba or kickboxing.
Bird said the program was created with girls in mind, but they’re not limiting participation by gender (and in Advocate, boys have joined the girls).
She said the window of time immediately following school is critical: many kids fill that time with sedentary activities. Many of the program participants are not the star athletes of their schools. Youth on the Move aims to create a comfortable, safe space for girls (and boys) to be physically active.
Finding out what kids want to do is key, said the organizer. Activities shouldn’t be pushed on them, rather they should do what they enjoy. If that means playing tag with some friends while listening to music, great. At the same time, the syllabus is designed to also introduce them to new activities.
“I’ve heard some good comments from the parents,” said Bird, one of which expressed satisfaction with the variety the program offers.
The news is good from the kids, too, according to Bird. She said she’s heard they want to stay longer than the scheduled one-and-a-half hours, and want to participate more than twice a week.
The goal of the after school initiative, which has funding from a number of provincial and municipal governments, is to teach kids being active can be fun, and also equip them with the tools to make their own active fun on the days the program isn’t running.
“Making that little spark in the kids,” she said.
More information about participating or volunteering can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org