By J.W. Schnarr
Alta Newspaper Group – Lethbridge
An outreach school in Taber is giving its students an opportunity for a “wheelie” good time by making new mountain bikes available for their gym class? and a Lethbridge business is giving them a hand.
ACE Place in Taber has recently purchased 21 mountain bikes from Blakiston Sports in Lethbridge for use in their off-campus gym program.
Dan Webster is the owner of Blakiston Sports and said he met ACE Place principal Brock Campbell through some in-store bike events. He said the two had a conversation about providing the school with a number of mountain bikes to help out with a phys. ed. program.
“I thought it was kind of cool that a school would focus on one of these less-traditional sports in southern Alberta,” Webster said.
ACE Place does not have a gymnasium. In order to facilitate a phys-ed program, the school makes use of local activities and facilities, as well as getting the students involved in outdoor activities as much as possible.
“We have some excellent areas around Taber for riding bikes,” Campbell said. “So it’s a significant part of our phys-ed program.”
The school has had bikes available in the past, and has shared those bikes with another school in Taber. These new bikes will replace those ones.
Campbell said about 100 students per year will be able to make use of the bicycles.
“We’re always looking for ways to have a good phys-ed program,” Campbell said. “So we do a lot of outdoor activities.”
These outdoor activities could include biking, camping, hiking, and fishing. It can even include obstacle course events and similar activities, as well as make use of town facilities.
Campbell said the goal is to get students into the idea of taking part in “lifetime fitness” and outdoor pursuits that they will continue with on their own time and after they are done school.
“The kids love it,” he said. “We do biking during our school day, and we also do biking after school.”
“We ask who wants to go for a bike ride. And whoever joins in, that counts toward the completion of their phys-ed.”
“Besides, it keeps them healthy and active, and it makes a connection for them to like being in school. This activity serves us is so many ways.”
Webster said mountain biking is a sport that continues to grow in southern Alberta, in part due to the abundance of landscapes available.
“We have some great trails in the coulee systems in Lethbridge, and some great trails east of the city, toward Medicine Hat,” he said. “Then, in the Crowsnest Pass, the trails there are fantastic.”
“If you go north into the Kananaskis, it’s incredible, and south into Montana. We’re set up really well to mountain bike in any direction.”
One draw to mountain biking is that it is both social and individual at the same time.
“It takes a lot of effort, but your reward is pretty high, as well,” he said. “It has a very low impact environmentally, but the impact to your health is really high.”
Funding for the bikes is available through the school’s regular budget.
“We just spend our school budget a little different than a school does because we don’t have a gym,” Campbell said. “The equipment in our shed is our gym.”
“I think it’s a fantastic opportunity,” Webster said. “I’m really excited to see schools branching out a little bit, and maybe providing something for their students that is a little different than traditional sport opportunities.”