Written by Tracey Coutts and Scott Bailey
Looking for a versatile, cost-effective way to increase physical activity and improve literacy in your school community? Well, have we got a tale for you.
Trail Tales was launched in Parkland School Division 70 as a means to promote physical activity and literacy, while enhancing the active travel experience for school communities. Storyboard kits were created and placed along popular walking routes to be read and enjoyed by those walking and wheeling to school. In Spring 2020, these kits became part of the Ever Active Schools’ Physical Literacy Mentorship toolkit, and started popping up in school communities across the province to encourage active travel and daily physical activity.
The first kits were a collaborative effort between Ever Active Schools, the school division, and Stony Plain Regional Library, and funded through the Alberta Traffic Safety Fund. Library expertise ensured that copyright laws were honoured and that engaging books were selected. Two copies of each book were purchased (as books could not be reproduced in any way), dismantled, and then pages of the book were pasted on half sheets of poster board. To welcome people to the experience and to thank them for participating, we created two additional pages to bookend the story itself. These half sheets of poster board were then numbered, laminated (to provide weather-proofing), and velcroed to plastic corrugated cardboard lawn signs. Currently, the sets include English, French, and Cree language picture books and are housed in the Stony Plain Regional Library to facilitate public lending and engagement. The following books are part of that collection: Emily Hughes’ Wild, Cari Best’s A Perfect Day for Digging, Steve Antony’s Unplugged, Carmela LaVigna Coyle’s Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots?, Tracey Coutts’ How It Happened in Hotterly Hollow, Dallas Hunt’s Awâsis and the World-Famous Bannock, and Mac Barnett’s Max et Sam creusent, creusent, creusent….
The kits have been lent out for use to many organizations and for many purposes, including Paths for People, an Edmonton-based non-profit dedicated to better infrastructure for people on bikes and on foot, who used them to engage participants at their 2019 Open Streets and Car-Free Candy Cane Lane events, proving how versatile and weather-resistant the signs really are! Spring and Summer of 2020 saw the kits used regularly along popular walking routes and trails in Wabamun and Stony Plain, with multiple sets used by Principal Heather Huisman to encourage her Meridian Heights school community to keep active and keep reading during the new reality that the pandemic brought: Trail Tales at École Meridian Heights.
An Edmonton family, while exploring Wabamun by bicycle, happened upon a set of Trail Tales that had been placed along its popular forested shared pathway:
“We live in Edmonton and had the chance to explore the nature trail in Wabamun in June when they had a scavenger hunt set up to find 21 objects along the trail. We were with a group and rode our bikes back and forth to find all the objects. It was such a fun and unique experience that we came out to Wabamun again, this time with friends to show them the trail and explore Wabamun further. What a wonderful surprise to find that they had changed it up. This time they had the trail lined with pages of a book. Fantastic!! We got to enjoy nature, explore, listen to the birds and find butterflies and the littles practiced their reading as they told us a story along the path. This path is amazing!!”
Trail Tales was adopted as an initiative of the Ever Active Schools’ Physical Literacy Mentorship project this Spring in schools across the province to keep encouraging active travel and daily physical activity. With support from Jumpstart, mentorship schools were provided with Trail Tales signs that use an adhesive, vinyl sleeve to allow for stories to be changed over time, providing an opportunity for student voice in selecting books to read on the move! We received permission from our friends, the Be Fit for Life Network, to display Leah Yardley’s moving story As Big as the Sky, As Tall as the Trees, which is a perfect Trail Tales title, including movement prompts on each page.
Most of us have experienced stories that have moved us, but Trail Tales offers that opportunity in every sense of the word.