Winthrop students earn $1,000 for outdoor activities after spending 187,000 minutes outdoors

A student catches a ball thrown by PE teacher Amanda Knowlton after the Teens To Trails grant announcement Tuesday at Winthrop Middle School. Students won the $1,000 prize to purchase outdoor gear after spending more than 187,000 minutes outdoors. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

WINTHROP — Middle school students gathered in the gymnasium this week for what they thought was a dance and rock show. But seeing their physical education teacher Amanda Knowlton opening a bag of new dodgeballs to the dodgeball, they understood why they had really been taken to the gym.

Winthrop middle schoolers raised 187,461 minutes outdoors and were among the top three schools in the state to do so in the Teens to Trail Life Happens Outside Challenge. Being in the top three earned them $1,000 to spend on anything away.

When Knowlton opened the bag of new dodgeballs on Tuesday afternoon and tossed them to the students, they were so excited they could barely catch his throws. For them, it was a sign of their hard work sleeping outside in the cold and playing sports in the rain to earn paid time outdoors.

Knowlton sat on the secret of the news the students won for three weeks. She was finally able to tell the students at the surprise assembly on Tuesday where Teens to Trails executive director Alicia Heyburn presented them with the check for $1,000.

“They have no idea this is happening,” Knowlton said of the news, adding that students ask him “every day” if they won the challenge.

Knowlton heard about the Life Happens Outside Challenge – a challenge to get students out in any way possible – from a colleague and thought it would be fun for her students to take part in it, as she is already trying to get them out. as much as she can in gym class. They could use the money for new exterior equipment.

“The kids asked for new dodgeballs,” Knowlton said. “We also plan to get things for the outdoors. I was thinking maybe disc golf or some winter stuff.

Winthrop High School student Elsa Goerel-Bain, left, Alicia Heyburn, executive director of Teens To Trails, and teacher Amanda Knowlton react after Tuesday’s grant announcement at Winthrop Middle School. Students won the $1,000 prize to purchase outdoor gear after spending more than 187,000 minutes outdoors. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

When she told the students about the challenge, she said they took it seriously and did everything from going out in the rain to using a yoga mat to sit outside and read.

Winthrop School Committee Chairwoman Kelly Hooper was at the meeting and said her son, Will, takes every opportunity to be outside and “walks the rail path and around the neighborhood”.

The Life on the Outdoors Challenge is in its second year and aims to get students and school members out for as much time a day as they can in a week. The week ran from October 21 to October 28 and 15 schools from across the state participated. The top three “winners” received $1,000 to spend on outdoor activities for their schools.

The students of Winthrop Middle School put in 187,461 minutes outdoors with the help of 221 middle school students and 19 teachers; however, minutes won by teachers were not counted in the final tally of minutes.

The other schools in the top three – Dedham School and Lamoine Consolidated School, put in 16,765 and 47,793 minutes respectively, but lacked the numbers power that Winthrop had. Dedham School had approximately 50 participants and Lemoine Consolidated School had approximately 29 participants.

Other schools in the state that participated in the Life Happens Outside Challenge were Central Middle School, Bath Middle School, Saco Middle School, Mt. Ararat Middle School, Grey-New Gloucester Middle School, Greely Middle School, Holbrook Middle School, Woolwich Central School, Athens Community School, Memorial Middle School, Brunswick Junior High School and Madison Junior High School.

Each time a student went outside counted for minutes – examples given by Teens to Trails of activities to participate in were yard work, playtime, building a fort, or going out with friends.

Teens to Trails communications director Jen Hazard said schools were creative in how they measured their numbers – some students started sleeping on their porches and others cleaned up the areas around their rooms outdoor class.

“We’ve heard from many schools that this (the challenge) has inspired them to do more outside,” Hazard said.

Students and staff celebrate after the Teens To Trails grant announcement Tuesday at Winthrop Middle School. Students won the $1,000 prize to buy outdoor gear after spending more than 187,000 minutes outdoors. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Winthrop students even stepped out in the cold and rain to make their minutes count – Knowlton said she would normally have canceled cross-country practice due to the rain, but held one in bad weather weather during this week.

Hazard said it’s important to get outside, not just to exercise, but even a few minutes a day to do something like sit and read.

“There are big health issues now with the anxiety that the pandemic has brought and all the studies that have been done that show being outdoors is healthy and good for you and gives you that break your brain needs. needs,” Hazard said.

Superintendent Jim Hodgkin said he was proud of the work done by the students and especially Knowlton who put in the time and effort to ensure the students had the best possible chance of getting the scholarship.

“It was no surprise to me when she told me they had it,” he said.


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