School kids practice for Minne-Loppet event

Third graders in Robert Lundquist’s class at Pillsbury Elementary School take off after getting a brief introduction to ski poles Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014 at Windom Park. They’re participating in the Minne-Loppet program, which provides cross-country ski equipment and coaching during the 8 weeks prior to the City of Lakes Loppet. Jennifer Simonson / MPRNews

My cross-country skiing instruction 43 years ago was strictly DIY and it shows. By contrast young people at Pillsbury Elementary school in Minneapolis are learning to kick and glide the right way. I’ll tell you about it today in a new Minnesota Sounds and Voices episode as part of All Things Considered.

More than half of the 150 young people in the Pillsbury phy-ed class are from homes where  English is not the first language.  An even larger number, more than 80 percent, qualify for free or reduced school meals because of the family’s low income.

So, is learning to ski a frill? Would these young people, many of whom need a leg up learning a new language and getting ready for tests, be better off spending more time in the classroom time rather than schussing through nearby Windom Park?

“No,” says Pillsbury English Language Learner teacher Mark Trumper. He helped find money for the ski class and for a bicycling course as well.  Trumper says children who are active are better learners. In fact he’s part of the group working with Minneapolis school district officials to expand outdoor learning during school hours.

A youngster learning to ski on barrel staves in a 1903 photo by Gilbert Ellestad. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

Faithful blog readers know of my fascination with the Minnesota Historical Society image collection.  Here’s a gem.  The credit says the picture was taken in 1903 by Gilbert Ellestad, of a kid learning to ski on barrel staves on the Ellestad farm near Lanesboro.  Very cute.  Ok, back to the present.

There’ll be more than 500 school children from around the Twin Cities participating Saturday in a Minne-Loppet event for young people.  Sixty-five of them will be from Pillsbury.

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