Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School unveiled a new outdoor walking course Oct. 28 that correlates with an indoor trails course, launched in 2014 throughout the halls of the Brunswick school.
Created by HBS speech pathologist Jessica Pelletier and physical education teacher Lynn D’Agostino, the Bobcat Trails course has three trails of varying difficulty.
“Being outdoors and exercising can improve physical and mental health,” said D’Agostino. “These new trails are available to families on weekends and after school, as well as children at recess and HBS staff.”
The new course was made possible by a grant from Mid Coast Hospital’s childhood obesity program, Let’s Go! 5-2-1-0, in collaboration with Access Health, the local Healthy Maine Partnership.
The Let’s Go! 5-2-1-0 program is nationally recognized as a successful model to educate children about the importance of eating five fruits and vegetables per day, limiting screen time to two hours or less, engaging in one hour or more of physical activity each day, and drinking zero sugar sweetened beverages by choosing water instead.
Mid Coast Hospital and Access Health provide technical assistance and grant support to community partners who wish to participate in the program. Current participants include Regional School Unit 1, Maine School Administrative District 75, Brunswick Schools, many early childhood educations providers, libraries, and others.
Jack Murphy, a recent graduate of Brunswick High School, departed in September for a mission to Asunción, Paraguay, where he will serve until next June. Murphy is living with a Franciscan priest and several seminarians in a house which sits next to a large landfill where the city’s garbage is dumped.
“Inside the landfill, approximately 10,000 people live,” said Murphy. “They work by digging through the fresh trash to find things that they can resell. They are usually lucky to make a dollar for a day’s work. There is a functioning public school system, but not all the children go to school who are of age because they have to work in the landfill to provide money for their families.”
Each day after classes, Murphy and his housemates help the children with their homework and reteach some of the concepts learned in school.
“The task of educating a class full of teenagers seems daunting enough when in an American school. For me, in Paraguay, the burden of that task is multiplied many times because I have to work hard to communicate with them,” Murphy said. “To add to this, the majority of the students seem to have no kind of motivation to learn because they can see no way out of the poverty.”
It would be easy to look at the situation and lose hope. It is then that Murphy, who attended St. John’s Catholic School in Brunswick as a youth, turns to his faith.
“The central goal of the education at the after-school program must be to get it into the kids’ minds that it may be possible for them to make it out of the cycle of poverty. They can make a difference and change the society that has denied them of their most basic needs.”
Murphy’s understanding of the importance of service displays a maturity far beyond his years, and is a source of pride for his parents, Deacon John Murphy and Sheila Murphy, the youth ministry coordinator for All Saints.
“It has been amazing to see Jack over the past few years focus more on service and attention to the poor,” said John Murphy.
Harriet Beecher Stowe students Rowan Gray, Camdyn Landel, Logan Rossignol, Kat Mears and Jack Banks help open the Bobcat Trails this fall. The trail was funded with a grant from Let’s Go! 5-2-1-0. Principal Jeanne Skorapa, Access Health’s School Health Liaison Jennah Godo and co-creators Jessica Pelletier and Lynn D’Agostino were also excited to see the course open.