Teaching kids to get outside, even in the winter
Virgil Hovden’s interest in winter perhaps goes a bit deeper than most.
He’s a fan of the famous Iditarod Trail sled dog race, and he and his wife, Tracie, spent a month in Alaska in 2004. They visited Nome a year later to see the race’s conclusion.
“Maybe the greatest sporting experience of my life. I am still amazed at the bond and teamwork that each musher must have with their dogs — just unbelievable,” he said.
When conditions are right, Hovden runs a dog team of his own across the rural Buchanan County countryside.
But he is also a physical education teacher in the Dunkerton School District, and a good portion of the school year plays out during Iowa’s coldest months.
With a $1,000 grant from the McElroy Foundation and AEA 267, Hovden found a way to combine his passion and his job. Hovden used the money to buy 20 pairs of snowshoes.
He had a couple of reasons. First, snowshoeing, as the kids discovered, demands a physical investment from participants, beginning with getting the footwear in place.
“Snowshoeing is a way to keep kids moving. Just getting the bindings on takes some effort,” Hovden said.
Figuring out the motion needed to walk strains other muscles.
“They’ve got to spend time doing it,” Hovden said.
According to Snowshoe Magazine, the gear can indeed be part of a workout. Stride for stride, snowshoeing in powder on level terrain typically burns at least 45 percent more calories than walking at the same pace.
The added benefit comes from the weight on the feet, greater resistance in the snow and cold temperature, which requires a person’s metabolic rate to increase.
But it’s still considered a low-impact exercise, according to the magazine, putting less strain on joints.
Beyond exercise, snowshoeing represented a unique topic for Hovden’s PE classes.
“I haven’t offered that before,” he said.
Deep snow, the kind that make snowshoes helpful, hasn’t been a problem recently. Monday, cleats meant to grip ice were more useful. But even so, Joy Keller’s fifth-grade class found a few lingering drifts along fences to test the technology.
MaKenna Miller-Verduyn, one of those students, enjoyed the brief outing. But she does not anticipate buying snowshoes any time soon.
“They wouldn’t stay on my feet,” she said.
She’s also not as big a fan of winter as Hovden.
“I wish it was over,” Miller-Verduyn said.
As of Monday all the students in fourth, fifth and sixth grades at Dunkerton have tried what is likely a new experience for most.
“This week we’ll start over — if Mother Nature allows,” Hovden said.
Reported by DENNIS MAGEE of the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier from DUNKERTON, Iowa (MCT)
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