A program to promote outdoor literacy among Airdrie’s youth is launching this month.
The Alberta Orienteering Association (AOA) is offering its Outdoor Adventure Program for youth in Airdrie aged six to 12. The eight-week course will delve into the fundamentals of orienteering, such as map-reading and other aspects of outdoor literacy.
According to AOA Executive Director Bogi Gyorfi, the association offered the courses two years ago and had a successful session in Airdrie, but the program was temporarily derailed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We got quite a few inquiries this year about when it was coming back,” she said. “We felt that we’re an outdoor sport so we can keep it safe and all the guidelines.”
The classes include various outdoor games, obstacle courses, endurance, strength and agility challenges. In addition to those activities, Gyorfi said participants will learn the introductory elements of orienteering – the practice of navigation and making sense of one’s outdoor surroundings.
“Our program is designed as an outdoor physical literacy program, and we use orienteering to enhance the program,” she said. “We hope the kids who participate develop that good sense of how to be outside and enjoy it more, so they’re more likely to keep active outside throughout their lifetime.”
The classes cost $80 and will be held on Mondays from 6 to 7 p.m., starting April 26 and running until late June. Sessions will be held at either Nose Creek Regional Park or the field behind École francophone d’Airdrie in Ravenswood.
“We usually do three sessions at Nose Creek Park and then we go to the Ravenswood location, and then back to the park,” Gyorfi said. “This way, the kids can learn more and more about different areas and it’s just helpful for our program to introduce them to new maps.”
To help reduce the prospect of COVID-19 transmission among participants, Gyorfi said AOA has implemented new health and safety protocols for its programming, such as daily health screening, physically distancing participants, not sharing materials and maps and keeping participants in groups of 10 or less.
Gyorfi said she encourages Airdrie families to consider signing their kids up for the classes, adding the program provides youth with myriad benefits, such as learning about orienteering and reconnecting with their natural environment.
“The biggest thing is we find, I work in schools and we see how, because of technology and a lack of opportunities for kids to be outside, they’re losing that connection with nature and losing their connection and how to feel joy outside,” she said.
“We just want to bring them out there and this is the easiest way to bring families out.”
To help ensure the program is accessible to all children, she said AOA has a grant program available to help subsidize registration fees for families facing economic hardships or those in underrepresented groups.
She said AOA’s goal is to eventually expand its outdoor literacy programming in Airdrie and bring back its orienteering program for adults, once restrictions have been lessened.
For more information, visit orienteeringalberta.ca/airdrie.html