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Lethbridge’s Roving Gyms program to include traditional Indigenous elements

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WATCH ABOVE: The Lethbridge Sport Council’s free Roving Gyms program is partnering with Indigenous groups to include more rhythm toys such as traditionally made drums and shakers. The program is aimed at increasing children’s physical literacy and organizers hope the new additions encourage more families to take part. Emily Olsen reports – Jul 23, 2020

The Lethbridge Sport Council is partnering with local Indigenous groups to incorporate more rhythm-based elements in its Roving Gyms program this summer.

The free summer program is intended to increase children’s physical literacy in a safe environment. Organizers from the Lethbridge Sport Council say the input of Indigenous community members and the new addition of traditionally made drums and shakers will create a more inclusive environment.

Read more: Fred Sasakamoose and Ted Nolan concerned about future of aboriginal hockey

“We have toys designed around manipulative skills, control skills and skills like balance,” explained Shawn Daye-Finley, a program co-ordinator with the Lethbridge Sport Council.

“We’ve been working with an Indigenous group Opokaa’sin to make some rhythm toys.”

Those toys will include drums and rattles made in the traditional way.

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Traditional games educator Mary Ellen Little Mustache is one of the people helping to bring in the new elements.

“That was a very important method of teaching,” Little Mustache said. “That was our way of teaching.”

Little Mustache said she is excited at the prospect of creating a space that shares traditional play between communities.

Sport council officials have taken precautions to make sure those communities can still share, even with COVID-19 restrictions.

“The parents register together with their friends, so they’re already a cohort –a friendship cohort,” Lethbridge Sport Council executive director Susan Eymann explained.

“So they come and they interact and the feedback we’ve gotten is fantastic. They’re so excited we’ve started this again.”

Time slots are spaced out throughout the day. Four play groups are separated by pylon spacing behind the Nicholas Sheran Arena and toys are cleaned and sanitized after every session.

The Roving Gyms program is expected to continue into the summer, and organizers hope to see more families come out.

“We were seeing the same people week after week and it didn’t matter where the location was,” Daye-Finley said. “So we might not have been teaching the demographics we were trying to.”

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Read more: 60% of Indigenous people say mental health is worse due to COVID-19: survey

Little Mustache is hoping to share her love of traditional play with newer generations and see the communities brought together once again by music and games.

“Basketball, hockey, soccer, football, lacrosse — all of those games, they all came from the sports that we played since time immemorial,” she said.