written by Jonathan Carlson and Amy Pipho (DMS Physical Education teachers) with Andrew Ellingsen (part-time Instructional Coach)
One of the best known features of the Decorah community is our Nordic heritage. From Nordic Fest to the Vesterheim, Scandinavian culture is part of so many facets of our community. And Jonathan Carlson & Amy Pipho have found a way to bring that Nordic culture into the Decorah Middle School physical education curriculum by having students experience cross country skiing as part of the school day!
For the past week, middle schoolers have spent time outside each afternoon skiing on a track that was groomed by Decorah Park & Rec. In fact, the school’s financial investment in cross country skiing has been minimal -- the equipment is borrowed each year from the Winneshiek County Conservation Board, a local organization whose purpose is to “provide the public with wide-ranging opportunities for quality outdoor recreation while wisely managing our natural resources and encouraging land stewardship through natural history and environmental education programming.”
Cross country skiing finds its origins in Scandinavia, with the oldest skis unearthed having been dated at 4,500 years old! It wasn’t until the mid 1800’s in Norway that cross country skiing began to be regarded as a leisure sport rather than simply being a means of transportation, and skiing continues to be so popular in Norway that they joke that Norwegians are “born with skis on their feet.”
In addition to exposing students to a facet of Decorah’s cultural heritage, Carlson & Pipho are also introducing students to the diversity of manners in which they can engage in lifelong physical fitness. Mr. Carlson commented that for some of the students who don’t participate in organized sports in school, activities like cross country skiing and yoga often open their eyes to other possibilities. (Side note from Andrew: As a boy who couldn’t throw, couldn’t catch, and was not a fast runner, I wish this would have been my own middle school experience – I would have loved having opportunities like this as part of physical education!)
How do you connect your classroom with the community? Are there organizations you partner with? Join the conversation by commenting below!
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