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Students take big LEAP forward

By Roberta Bell, Orillia Packet & Times

Nine-year-old Riley Parham races to capture beanbags for her team Monday morning at Lions Oval Public School. Twice a week, the school runs the Laugh Exercise and Play (LEAP) drop-in program before school, which brings students of all capabilities together in a fitness activity. 
ROBERTA BELL - THE PACKET & TIMES

Nine-year-old Riley Parham races to capture beanbags for her team Monday morning at Lions Oval Public School. Twice a week, the school runs the Laugh Exercise and Play (LEAP) drop-in program before school, which brings students of all capabilities together in a fitness activity. ROBERTA BELL - THE PACKET & TIMES

ORILLIA - 

Many people don’t look forward to Monday mornings, but nine-year-old Riley Parham can’t wait for them to come around.

It’s the one day a week she wakes up at 7 a.m. instead of 7:30 a.m. to get to school early.

Parham has been participating in the Laugh Exercise and Play (LEAP) drop-in program before class at Lions Oval Public School since it began in May.

“It’s fun,” said the third-grader, her face flushed from running laps around the perimeter of the schoolyard with about 20 other students before an inclusive version of capture the flag.

“The game is one of my favourites that we’re doing,” she said, motioning to the field where junior and intermediate students were setting up the game.

The LEAP program, funded by an $800 equipment grant from the GoodLife Kids Foundation, is spearheaded by parent volunteer Lisa Odlozinski, whose four children attend Lions Oval.

“We’re trying to introduce them to a bunch of fitness activities,” she said.

“It’s a fun way to start the day.”

On Monday mornings, older students lead primary students through a warm-up, game and cool. On Wednesday mornings, they play themselves.

“Every week, we put together a game using some of the equipment,” Odlozinski said.

In addition to capture the flag, the students have played scoop-ball lacrosse, created an exercise circuit with skipping and Frisbee toss and even dabbled in taekwondo. One of the teachers at Lions Oval is a certified instructor.

LEAP complements a morning breakfast program already in place, said principal Darryl Halliday, getting students off on the the right foot, quite literally.

“We want to make sure that they get that activity every day,” said Odlozinski, who hopes the program helps students integrate exercise into their daily routines.

“These are games that they can play at recess,” she said, or with family and friends outside of school.

LEAP is for everyone, said Grade 1 teacher Susan David, who comes out to help Odlozinski and play with the kids on a regular basis.

The “nice thing” is children of all abilities are welcomed and encouraged, she continued, adding they often end up socializing outside of their normal groups of friends and making new ones.

“It’s been neat to see the progression of some of the kids,” said Odlozinski, who is impressed to see so many increasing their strength and endurance.

“It’s healthy for you,” Parham said of participating in the LEAP program.

roberta.bell@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @roberta__bell


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