Millbrook High School seniors Elizabeth Rolleri and Michelle Albrecht attended their gym class on Feb. 12, where activities are often predictable.
Plain old sports like volleyball, softball and basketball are typical of high school physical education classes. But Millbrook broke the trend of the same old gym class activities, introducing snowshoeing as an exercise.
Right away, it was an instant hit among the student body.
“The best part about it was getting out of the gym and trying something new,” Rolleri said.
The new activity was several years, and several thousand dollars in the making, borne of the usual restlessness of the winter months.
“I started talking about it three, four years ago,” Millbrook physical education teacher Shawn Stoliker said. “It was something I wanted to add in the winter time, because we sort of get cabin fever. It’s fresh; innovative.”
A snowshoe is a specialized type of footwear designed for walking over the snow. As such, the feet of a person wearing a pair of snowshoes will not sink through the snow.
Stoliker proposed the snowshoeing when Millbrook Principal Sandra Intrieri approached the teacher and asked how she might be able to help him improve the physical education program.
Stoliker obtained 48 pairs of snowshoes for his students to use, ensuring there would be enough to go around.
Students tried them out, putting on their snowshoes and walking up a trail. The hike eventually led them onto the athletic field.
“We showed them how to put them on and how to go up and down a hill,” Stoliker said. “We walked up a big hill behind the high school. It was a great workout with a lot of smiles and laughter.”
However, Stoliker said, the students struggled before becoming comfortable in the footwear.
“The most challenging part for me was figuring out how to put the snowshoes on,” Albrecht said. “I actually put the left snowshoe on my right foot at first, and was so confused as to why mine looked different than everyone else’s.”
“You had to adjust the shoes so that they would be tight and had to make sure they wouldn’t come off,” Rolleri said. “I actually had it happen to me. I was walking and my foot slipped out, and it was pretty difficult to get it strapped back in without falling through (the snow).”
Intrieri witnessed the students snowshoeing and called it “one of the most uplifting things, as an educator.”
The principal said once the students got acclimated, they played games of tag in the snow.
“They loved it,” Intrieri said.
According to Intrieri and Stoliker, a grant from the Millbrook Educational Foundation helped fund the snowshoes for the students.
The foundation was established in 2001. It is comprised of community members whose collective goal is to provide funding for programs and facility needs beyond those supported by regular school resources.
“The foundation raises money,” Stoliker said. “If you apply for a grant it goes to their board and they have to figure out if it’s worth it. It’s a very big process.”
Stoliker said the budget for the snowshoes was just under $5,000, and said he was able to get “discounts here and there” to come in under budget.
Rolleri and Albrecht said they would recommend snowshoeing to their friends.
“It’s a great way to get outside during the winter and just have fun with your friends,” Rolleri said.
“If you like hiking during the warmer weather, this is a great way to get outside during the cold weather,” Albrecht said.
Stoliker agreed, saying the kids can keep at it after high school.
“It’s a lifetime activity,” Stoliker said. “They learn it in high school, they can do it the rest of their lives. We’ll be doing it for a number of years.”
A.J. Martelli: 845-437-4836, firstname.lastname@example.org, @AJM_PoJoSports