Public school students in north Rocky View County and Airdrie will have the opportunity to channel one of Nintendo's most popular characters during their Professional Development (PD) day off school next month.
On April 4 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., BGC Airdrie Club and its Beiseker and Irricana branches will put on Super Mario Monday – a day in which the club's activities will centre around Mario, the popular video game character.
Ally Friesen, manager of children’s programs for BGC Airdrie Club, said participants will have the opportunity to play a variety of Mario video games on the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo Switch in the morning, and cap off the PD day with a real-life version of Mario Kart in the afternoon – an activity that will see students race against each other on scooters around a track they themselves help create.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun, Friesen said.
She added an objective of the day's competition-themed activities is to teach youth how to win and lose gracefully.
“Staff are able to model sportsmanship to our kiddos, so those social and emotional skills,” she said. “They can be upset that they lost, but also cheer on their friends who are still in the race, which is fun. We’re hoping to do it outside because it’s actually supposed to be nice out.”
The day is geared toward youth ages six to 11. Part of the reason BGC Airdrie chose the Mario theme, Friesen said, is because the kids in the club tend to be very enthusiastic about technology and video games.
“Playing video games has kind of gotten a bad reputation over the years – kids glued to the screen and fighting over winning or losing,” she said. “We hate to see that because I think it can be such a positive environment when you actually try [to foster it].”
In line with the theme of the day, Mario-themed snacks and craft activities will also be on hand, according to Friesen.
This will be just the second BGC Airdrie PD Day program to be held in Beiseker. While the Airdrie-based club has operated programs out of Irricana for nine years, the expansion into Beiseker only took place this year.
Friesen added BGC Airdrie Club intends to soon introduce the Junior Chefs evening program to Beiseker, which will teach the young participants key cooking fundamentals.
“The ladies we’ve partnered with at [the Village of Beiseker] office have been amazing,” Friesen said. “We’ve done a lot of connecting with [Brook Swanson], their recreation coordinator. She’s absolutely lovely and they’ve been super inviting in welcoming us to the community.”
For Irricana youth, Super Mario Monday will take place at 302 3rd Street on April 4, while the Beiseker one will be held at the Beiseker community hall. The Airdrie session, meanwhile, will be at BGC Airdrie's club centre at 1003 Allen Street.
To sign up, call 403-948-3331 or register online at bgcairdrie.com. Friesen said there are 25 slots available, and transportation to the sites is available for kids who could otherwise not make it.
She said above all else, Super Mario Monday will offer a great chance for youth to reconnect in person, following Alberta's lifting of COVID-19 health restrictions on March 1.
“We were away from people for so long,” she said. “A lot of kids, we saw they lost those skills of what is socially OK and what’s not OK. Which is fair – I saw adults do that too, so we can’t expect any less from our kiddos.
“But it’s such a great opportunity to have positive social and emotional learning. It’s so easy to weave that into these programs and it’s a safe environment. If you explode after a game, that’s OK. We’ll show you how to relax, regulate, apologize if something happens, and how to reconnect into the group.”