Taking playtime outside

26 Jan

By ALEX MATTHEWS — The Post-Star | Posted: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 12:45 am

For about 15 preschool children in the Warrensburg Head Start program, the choice was simple: pink or blue. The number of girls in the hour-long snowshoe outing last Wednesday was slightly larger than the boys, and soon the pink pairs were down to one.

As a teacher guided the last five girls — parkas, snow pants and all — out of the Warrensburg elementary school to the playground, it became clear there might not be some happy trekkers at the Project Snowshoe event.

“Pink!” the girls shouted, when asked their preference. As I helped one into a remaining blue set, provided by the Council for Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse, her excitement overrode her initial disappointment.

“I’ve never snow-sledded before,” she said as I strapped the small plastic pair on. “I’m going to go off a big jump!”

A couple of awkward steps and a fall or two later, the kids began to grasp what snowshoeing really was. They scurried around on a scavenger hunt for about 20 minutes before taking the shoes off, but the intention among the parents, teachers and organizers present was met.

“The main premise for the (Project Snowshoe) program is really to help families build attachment and bonding,” said Jenn Wood, school-based program coordinator for the Council. “… The old adage is the family that plays together, stays together. The family that establishes family relationships early on, their kids are more likely to stay away from substance abuse later.”

Six months ago, Wood and the council’s program director, Keith Kelley, came up with the idea to offer free outdoor activities for families with young children. Both snowshoe enthusiasts, they realized snowshoeing was a relatively simple and inexpensive winter option.

“It was real doable for us,” Kelley said. “How many kids do we have out here today? Sixteen? Seventeen? Can you imagine them all on skis? That’s like butterflies, you couldn’t keep track of them.

“So this is nice and manageable,” he added, “and it’s something that’s affordable too. (The equipment) lasts a good long time.”

The Greater Adirondack Perinatal Network and Glens Falls Foundation granted the council a total of $2,000 to purchase 37 pairs of snowshoes: 15 for toddlers, 10 for elementary school children and 12 for adults.

The council also bought fleece jackets, gloves, boot covers, tissue packets and scavenger hunt supplies to offer at various sites around Warren and Washington counties.

Fortunately for the Warrensburg Head Start crew, the morning was mild with light snowfall.

“This is our gift, really,” Kelley said, looking up at the floating snowflakes, “and for the children to miss that they can be out and have fun in it, that’s a loss.”

Dale Lilley of Thurman accompanied his 5-year-old son, Nolan, at the school on their own snowshoes.

“It was a nice day for it, and he wanted me to come,” he said. “There’s no freezing toes or fingers, so that’s good.”

Three Project Snowshoe events have taken place since January – first in Hudson Falls, then in Salem and Warrensburg.

Wood, Kelley and their equipment-filled van will visit a nursery school in Salem on Tuesday, travel to the Whitehall Head Start on Thursday and give elementary students with the Fort Edward 4-H a chance to snowshoe on Saturday.

“It’s meeting our needs as a council, in terms of helping families to do more things that are positive together,” Kelley said, “but at the same time, it’s keeping them healthy.”

Get out and go

The council purchased its snowshoes online at campmor.com, but several local sports shops sell them as well. For rentals, Inside Edge in Queensbury has adult and kid sizes for half- or full-day (overnight) use.

This Saturday from 7-9:30 p.m., the Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park will host an annual Moonlight Ski & Snowshoe at Camp Saratoga on Scout Road.

Candles will light 2 ½ miles of groomed trails at the free event, which includes two bonfires and hot chocolate. Limited ski and snowshoe rentals are available for $3, and people should be aware of the 7 p.m. rush, according to the preserve’s executive director, Sarah Clarkin.

Given the heavy rain, the event could be postponed to Feb. 27. Those interested should check the Web site, wiltonpreserve.org, or call 450-0321.

Active Advice:

Dr. Douglas Girling, an emergency room physician at Glens Falls Hospital who specializes in sports physiology and wilderness rescue, explained the benefits of snowshoeing.

“Snowshoeing is fantastic because it requires a huge amount of energy …”

“Going out for a half hour on a pair of snowshoes really gives you a phenomenal workout. You get much more of a workout than you would just pure running.”

“Even walking flat (with snowshoes) is equivalent to walking uphill without snowshoes, just because you’ve got to lift your leg up and you have these 3- or 4-pound snowshoes attached to it, plus whatever amount of snow is on top of that as well.”

“The key about some routine exercise is something that you actually enjoy doing.”

Original story: http://poststar.com/sports/taking-playtime-outside/article_5234e4cc-0a3c-11df-b5a6-001cc4c03286.html#ixzz1Rwu2Lwsz

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