Active bunnies have a ball

16th April 2004 at 01:00
Not a corner of Kelso was left unturned this Easter. Activities took place everywhere in the Borders town. From football and basketball to a ball for Easter bunnies, there was something for children of all ages.

The message of this Easter school was "Fit and Fun", and the aim was to encourage children to enjoy being active. The focus was on physical activity as something to enjoy and learn from, rather than as competitive sport.

The two-week Easter school was organised by active primary co-ordinator Lynn Young, who says: "We have multi-activity sessions, Teeny Tots in the morning for 3-5s, games, dance, including hip-hop and street dancing, gymnastics, which also includes body conditioning, Yogalates and other stretching techniques, drama, golf. It has been a busy place."

Mrs Young decided to repeat the Easter school after a successful turnout last year. "There were over 200 participants last year and the parents were delighted that something had eventually been done to help them with childcare issues brought on by the school holidays," she says.

Mrs Young is based at Kelso High but her remit includes working with six cluster schools, some in rural areas. Travelling to Kelso during the holidays can cause difficulties for families, so she introduced new ways to reach them.

"Two days each week we held multi-activity sessions in the village halls.

It was for different age groups from age four up to 10 and 11-year-olds, but because they are villages the children are used to working together.

These activities focus on activity, co-ordination and spatial awareness, so we are educating them as well."

New Opportunities funding, which is the start of a three-year-programme, allowed some children to travel in by taxi. Even for those who do have transport, timing can be a problem. "It can be difficult if you have children of different ages, so we have tried to back activities on to one another. Now, if you have a child in the 5-8 age group and another in the 9-12, you can drop them off and pick them up at the same time," Mrs Young says.

As well as the regular sporting activities, such as football, gymnastics and swimming, there were golf lessons with professional Craig Montgomery and Green Gym sessions, led by the Kelso woodland community group. Children were taken into school gardens and encouraged to learn about the environment by planting trees, putting up bird boxes and cleaning woodland areas.

"I'm very keen that it's not just about sport," says Mrs Young. "This is still physical activity, and is also encouraging children to be outdoors."

Multi-activity sessions, which also proved popular, included team games and co-operative games.

On the first morning of the Easter school children played a trust game.

Working in pairs one had to close her eyes, or be blindfolded, and hold on to the shoulder of her partner. The leader then had to walk around the hall, snaking in and out of the paths of other children, twisting and turning.

Later in the day the children got to dress up three of the senior coaches in rubbish as human sculptures, with boxes on their arms, bubble wrap on their heads and bottles balanced on arms or gripped between teeth.

"I like the idea of encouraging children to be active," Mrs Young says. "If you get them at an early age, before they have become disaffected by PE, it is better. I am building up clubs as well as building up relationships with the children, and the children are understanding the importance of keeping fit."

Older students took part in leading the activities. "We have a coach development programme within the school to increase the number of coaches in the area," Mrs Young says. "These senior pupils become assistant coaches over the two weeks and some of them have other qualifications which allow them to lead sessions on their own."

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