It’s been ten years since St. Jacobs Public School teachers Nancy Stayzer and Jennifer Hea launched an annual school-wide Earth Day hike on the Mill Race Trail.
Now, the tradition has spread to schools all across the township, with students from Floradale, Riverside and Breslau public schools all taking to the area’s vast trail system on April 22 in support of environmentalism and healthy living.
It’s a fun event for the kids, that provides the opportunity to introduce young people to the many trails the region has to offer, while getting them to think about the importance of the natural environment, Stayzer explained.
“I was always a volunteer with the Woolwich Trails Group (a part of Woolwich Healthy Communities) and hiking is a passion that I have,” Stayzer said. “And studies show that [hiking] is the healthiest thing you can do for your body. They call it the 23 and a half, so 23 and a half hours of the day you do everything, but if you can give half an hour each day to walking, it’s the best thing you can do. If you don’t have time to get out to do other stuff, just get out and walk. It doesn’t cost anything and there’s no equipment involved other than the odd raincoat or running shoes, so it’s cheap.”
It’s especially important to get young people thinking about healthy lifestyle choices, Stayzer said.
“The reason we wanted to start with kids was, we give mementos, including the pencils here today, and other schools are getting bookmarks that has all of the information for Woolwich trails on it. And so the hope is that the kids will bring those home and show their parents what they got, and the parents will go on the website and say, ‘you know what, as a family we should get out there.’”
There are more than 100 kilometres of trails in Woolwich Township, Stayzer added, which is perfect for hikers, dog walkers or bikers.
The St. Jacobs PS students were certainly excited to get out of the classroom and onto the Mill Race Trail Wednesday morning, despite a grey sky that intermittently produced a mixture of flurries and drizzle.
Serena Schaafsma said she enjoys being out in nature and seeing birds. For Lilly DeVrieze, she was looking forward to being out under the big blue sky- although it was mostly covered by grey clouds that morning. And according to Maya Albrecht, her favourite part of the Earth Day hike was the exercise.