DANVILLE - The new snow on the playground at Danville Elementary School was like white gold to physical education teacher Patrick Ard, who jumped at the chance last week to teach his students to use the snowshoes he purchased with a grant from the Healthy New Hampshire Foundation.
Ard applied for the grant last year and received $2,000, which he used to purchase the snowshoes, speed stacking cups and dance videos to supplement the supplies he already had for his physical education classes.
"I wanted to get the snowshoes because we didn't have any, and I'd heard of other schools in the state doing it," he said. "I think it's a different way for kids to learn a lifelong activity and to learn about lifelong fitness."
After a brief introduction to the terms the students needed to know, they suited up and went outside, where the 27 new pairs of snowshoes and the fresh snow waited.
The children eagerly listened to Ard's final instructions and then formed a line behind their teacher to head out across the snowy play yard.
"My biggest piece of advice," Ard told the children, "is to pretend you don't have snowshoes on. Walk like you have boots on."
He stopped after the first 100 yards, just before a hill, to give new instructions.
"When you're going downhill on snowshoes, you need to lean back a bit," Ard yelled. "When you're going uphill, dig your toe into the snow."
The students quickly learned that Ard's advice was sound.
"You need to dig your toe in when you go uphill," said Nate Mangrum. "Or you'll fall."
Most of the children found the activity enjoyable.
"It was fun, but tiring" said Justin Maguire.
Tiana Stefanelli agreed. "It's hard because the shoes make your feet heavy," she said.
"It gave me a good workout," added Courtney Kamberalis.
"I loved it," said fourth-grade teacher Jennifer Pelletier, who joined her students for physical education class because she wanted to give snowshoeing a try. "It was fun to see the kids in a different way. I never get to see them interact with each other in their own element."
Ard said he was pleased with the success of the activity.
"It gave the kids a new experience, and hopefully a better view of what physical fitness is," he said. "It's not just sport-based, like football, baseball, or soccer. There's something out there for everyone. It's just a matter of finding it."