Mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in their school

EMS stu­dents in New Mi­nas ap­ply lead­er­ship skills through gaga ball pit con­struc­tion pro­ject


A group of New Mi­nas stu­dents came home from camp with newly- in­stilled lead­er­ship skills that they quickly put to work to make a ma­jor im­prove­ment to their school grounds.

Thanks to an effort that saw stu­dents team up with the com­mu­nity, Evan­ge­line Mid­dle School (EMS) has a new piece of out­door phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity equip­ment that will be en­joyed for years to come.

Grade 7 home­room teacher Freda La­rade said Grade 7 stu­dents re­ceived a spe­cial last­minute in­vi­ta­tion to at­tend the youth lead­er­ship pro­gram at the Tim Hor­ton Chil­dren’s Camp in Tata­m­agouche free of charge. A trip was quickly or­ga­nized.

“The com­mit­ment was to at­tend the camp for eight days, so we had four days in the fall and four days in the win­ter ses­sion,” La­rade said.

The stu­dents were there to ex­pe­ri­ence chal­leng­ing team­work ac­tiv­i­ties and build lead­er­ship skills. There were eight “build­ing blocks” to com­plete as part of their “smart goal.”

La­rade said it was a great suc­cess. They were pleased with how the camp was or­ga­nized and with how much the stu­dents learned and were able to bring back to the school. The stu­dents also fell in love with a gaga ball pit there.

“When we were there, we had to de­cide as part of our smart goal what were we go­ing to do to bridge our lead­er­ship skills to the com­mu­nity so it would be blended,” La­rade said.

EMS isn’t blessed with an abun­dance of out­door play equip­ment, so the stu­dents de­cided they would help sup­port a gaga ball pit pro­ject at the school.

Pro­mot­ing phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity

Erica Eas­ton, of Kentville, the mom of Grade 7 stu­dent Drew Eas­ton, wanted to pro­mote phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity at the school out­side of the reg­u­lar Phys Ed pro­gram and had al­ready started work on an ini­tia­tive to have a gaga ball pit built.

A gaga ball pit is an oc­tag­o­nal struc­ture that acts as a ring to con­tain gaga ball games, a form of dodge­ball where the goal is to hit op­po­nents below the knees with a soft ball to elim­i­nate them.

Eas­ton pro­cured an Ac­tive Kids, Healthy Kids grant from the County of Kings to help get the ball pit con­structed. La­rade also helped se­cure grant fund­ing.

Eas­ton said a lot of the stu­dents at­tend sum­mer camps that have gaga ball pits and she had heard sev­eral of them ex­press that they would like to A group of Evan­ge­line Mid­dle School Grade 7 stu­dents didn’t al­low the snowy weather to de­ter them from en­joy­ing a re­cess romp in the newly-con­structed gaga ball pit on March 8.

have a sim­i­lar struc­ture at the school. This was the cat­a­lyst for Eas­ton’s ef­forts.

“With­out hav­ing the play struc­tures or bas­ket­ball nets or other out­door ac­tiv­i­ties, they (the stu­dents) also thought that it would be a re­ally good ad­di­tion to the school,” Eas­ton said.

With stu­dents rolling up their sleeves and pitch­ing in to help with the con­struc­tion, the pit was built dur­ing the month of Fe­bru­ary. Eas­ton said cut­ting the boards posed a chal­lenge so she con­tacted the Flower Cart, which neigh­bours EMS, and in-

vited the clients to help. She said they ea­gerly ac­cepted.

“They were amaz­ing to jump on board with us,” Eas­ton said.

Learn­ing to lead and hav­ing fun

Grade 7 stu­dent Drew Eas­ton, of Kentville, en­joyed play­ing gaga ball at camp. In the past, stu­dents have set up benches in the school gym to cre­ate a makeshift gaga ball pit but “it’s not that tall and it’s not that good — and it hurts your hands when you hit it.”

He was in­volved in the con-

struc­tion effort along with his mom, dad, other stu­dents and com­mu­nity part­ners. Eas­ton said he’s ex­cited to have it at the school and can’t wait for it to be moved to its per­ma­nent lo­ca­tion in the school­yard so stu­dents can be­gin us­ing it reg­u­larly.

Grade 7 stu­dent Abby Har­ri­son, of Port Wil­liams, said the Tim Hor­ton lead­er­ship camp ex­pe­ri­ence was “re­ally fun.” Stu­dents got the op­por­tu­nity to try many new things and take part in sev­eral ac­tiv­i­ties that taught lead­er­ship skills. She feels they learned a lot of valu­able lessons they could bring back to school and ap­ply in the com­mu­nity.

The new gaga ball pit, she adds, is great be­cause it lets “ev­ery­one be able to have this fun ex­pe­ri­ence and to play this game.” She en­joys the com­pe­ti­tion and try­ing to stave off elim­i­na­tion.

Grade 7 stu­dent Paige Mac­Don­ald said be­ing able to at­tend Tim Hor­ton lead­er­ship camp for free was a great ex­pe­ri­ence. She felt the coun­sel­lors did a great job teach­ing lead­er­ship skills and be­lieves the gaga ball pit would be a great ad­di­tion to the school.

“We haven’t had very many games and ac­tiv­i­ties out­side and we’re usu­ally all stuck inside for a long time so hav­ing that to go out­side and play around with your friends is real awe­some,” Mac­Don­ald said.

Grade 7 stu­dent Stuart Walsh, of New Mi­nas, also en­joyed the Tim Hor­ton lead­er­ship camp ex­pe­ri­ence, in­clud­ing play­ing gaga ball.

“It was fun, I got to hang out with lots of friends and the food was good and the coun­sel­lors were re­ally nice,” Walsh said.

While at camp, stu­dents had the chance to plan what their com­mu­nity pro­ject would be. Walsh said he “got kind of ex­cited” when he heard it was go­ing to be build­ing a gaga ball pit.

“I think it’s great that they built it be­cause now other peo­ple for years to come can use it,” he said.


Erica Eas­ton, of Kentville, her son Drew and a group of other Grade 7 stu­dents at Evan­ge­line Mid­dle School pose with the newly-con­structed gaga ball pit. Eas­ton was in­stru­men­tal in bring­ing the pro­ject to fruition.


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