PALS draws 4,400 elementary students to Brock

It was during a visit in Grade 6 that Ian Pierce was left with a lasting impression of Brock University.

Then a young Grimsby resident, Pierce came to Brock alongside his class through the Positive Active Living for Students (PALS) program and has never forgotten the fun-filled on-campus experience.

Now a fourth-year Biological Sciences student, Pierce has since gone on to not only study at Brock, but to also take on a role as an instructor with the program that left its mark on him so many years ago.

PALS, now in its 22nd year, welcomes about 4,400 elementary school children from 60 schools onto campus throughout May and June.

The program encourages physical activity by introducing students to sports and activities they may not otherwise have access to, such as fencing, archery and rowing.

PALS program fencing

Students from Ruth Thompson Middle School in Mississauga learn how to fence during a visit to the Positive Active Living for Students (PALS) program at Brock University.

“The day resonated with me a lot,” Pierce said as he reflected on his trip to campus as a child.

“I had never been to Brock before. I really got to see what the University was all about and what it had to offer.”

The fond memories are a motivator for Pierce to ensure the students he works with each day are enjoying their time on campus.

“I’m trying to give these kids the same experience that I had,” he said, while taking a break from showing proper archery form to a group from Ruth Thompson Middle School in Mississauga.

“It’s not a job. It’s passing on your passion for physical activity to these students.”

The PALS program has expanded since its inception more than two decades ago and continues to grow in popularity, said Megan Locker, Varsity Camps and Intramurals Co-ordinator.

Classes participate from schools in Niagara, Halton and Peel, with students ranging from Grade 1 to Grade 8.

“We have a lot of schools that come every year,” Locker said, adding June availability often fills up by December.

“It’s a great way to get students on campus to see Brock and to visit our facilities,” she said.

Classes participate in up to six activities per day, including swimming, flag rugby and lacrosse, among others.

Locker said it’s not uncommon for teachers and parents of participating students to inquire about further participation in the various sports for their children.

“It’s about getting students physically active while trying different things,” she said. “They may not like the typical soccer, volleyball and basketball played in gym class, but might like learning how to fence.”

For PALS instructors, many of whom are on the path to become school teachers, the program is an opportunity to gain hands-on experience working with children and networking with staff from many schools.

“That practice and experience with kids is invaluable as they move on to the next step in their teaching career,” Locker said.

The two-month PALS program is finished at the end of June, after which its instructors transition into working with Brock’s Summer Sports School for July and August.

More information on the PALS program is available online.

Read more stories in: News, People
Tagged with: , ,