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Conquering something new

Godwin Heights — Fourth-grader Ethan Bentley admitted he was not too sure about skiing as he carried his skis – horizontally – to the door. 

“It’s hard to move in these boots,” Ethan said just after negotiating the door with his skis, which he said were heavy. 

After a few practice runs down the Cannonsburg Ski Area’s bunny hill, the first-time skier was confident enough to prod the instructors about going up the “magic carpet,” a conveyor belt that transports skiers uphill.

The entire fourth-grade class at North Godwin headed to the slopes of Cannonsburg in February to try something that many had not done until then.

“Having exposure and trying something that you are unsure of is a great skill to practice,” said teacher Beth Richardson. “There is a lot of laughter and the students seem to be having a good time.” She said she had not had so many students hope there wouldn’t be a snow day so they could hit the slopes.

Friction, Force and Speed

Started about 10 years ago, North Godwin PE teacher Ed Wierenga implemented the Cannonsburg trip to introduce the students to an activity that he said many of the students may not otherwise have the opportunity to try. 

“It truly has been a big hit with our students, and many have said it was one of their favorite days of the year,” Wierenga said.  Students arrived in the morning and received instructions and lift tickets.  The lift tickets and ski rentals are partially funded through anonymous donations.

Each class entered the boot room, where students found and put on boots assigned to them, and then, their skis. That was followed with a lesson about force and friction through making a triangle shape with skis to slow down or stop, and how to walk sideways when going uphill. There was even a discussion on angles as students learned to lean forward on their skis to keep them upright, and backward to fall.

Getting the Hang of It

“I feel like Elsa from ‘Frozen,’ because I feel so powerful,” said fourth-grader Allison Perez-Aguilera with a laugh as she learned to start and stop on her skis.

Classmate and friend Trinity Rain was not as confident, saying she feels more like the movie’s Anna character, because “Anna falls down a lot in the snow,” she said. 

“I have never done this before, so I was pretty excited,” said Omar Romero. “It is kind of like sledding, but you’re on your feet.”

“It’s fun once you get the hang of it,” said Julianeth Vazquez, who added she’d gotten a little help from the school’s speech pathologist, Rachel Fetterhoff, which made it easier for her to master the bunny hill. 

Oaurora Buoy agreed about the fun part.

“I have never skied before, and I can’t wait to go on the magic carpet,” Oaurora said. 

Wierenga said some students would get to try the ski hill, and that the real success is the experience.

“They are conquering something they have never done before,” he said. “That builds confidence for conquering other challenges in the future.”

Explore more unique video stories of students learning, interesting school programs and educators working to help all children succeed.

Others pitch in for ski day

Tara Rasche, left, and Patti Baldwin

North Godwin students line up to get their skis

Several years ago, Forest Hills parent Patti Baldwin and friend Tara Rasche were visiting Cannonsburg Ski Area and noticed a large group of youngsters. Curious, the two approached North Godwin PE teacher Ed Wierenga.

“I was like, this is so cool that the school would do something like this for its students,” Baldwin recalled. “We were impressed that these kids got to experience a wonderful field trip.”

Baldwin and Rasche decided they wanted to help. Along with volunteering, they reached out to friends to help outfit students in 2019 and 2020. This year, Coldbrook Insurance Group partnered to help provide coats, hats, gloves and ski pants needed for the trip.

“These donors have made it possible for our students to stay warm and comfortable while experiencing a field trip like no other,” Wierenga said.

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma covers Kent ISD and Godwin Heights. She was born in the Detroit area but grew up in Brighton where she attended Hartland Public Schools. The salutatorian for the Class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism and minored in photography and German. She expanded her color palette to include orange and black as both her daughters graduated from Byron Center Public Schools; maroon and white for Aquinas College where her daughter studies nursing and also brought back blue and maize for Grand Rapids Community College where her youngest daughter currently is studying music. Read Joanne's full bio

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