As snow lightly fell, 40 sixth grade Wadena-Deer Creek students experienced the art of kicksledding at Green Island on Feb. 11. Two of Stephanie Pulver's classes took a field trip to Green Island, owned by Kent Scheer and Vicki Chepulis, for fresh air and a workout.
"I think it's important for them to get outside because a lot of times we're stuck in front of our screens all day and this gets them excited about being outside especially during the cold months and fresh air is so good for their brains, it's for their health, it's amazing," Pulver said.
Pulver learned about the kicksleds from sixth grade teacher Lori Grendahl, who brought her students the previous week. Pulver also hoped her students would make connections with their reading of “A Call to the Wild” by Jack London, which talks about dog sledding. The kicksleds are similar to dog sleds in their smaller size.
Scheer says this is the "best moment" for kicksledding in four years, though the trails have been open for eight to 10 years thanks to support from Wadena County Public Health. The trails are three-quarters of a mile this year, and students could explore any of the open trails after first taking a 15 minute loop to learn how to kicksled. Scheer also demonstrated the unfamiliar sled style, which is popular in Sweden, Finland and Norway.
"Emotional well-being," Scheer said on the importance of being outdoors even in the winter. "We fail to understand the pleasure that can come from outdoor recreation in the way that people in Scandinavia understand it, simply being outside when the air is moderate and the winter is mild enough to allow you to do it, it's a really delightful … feeling."
Scheer also learned about kicksleds eight years ago after spending time cross country skiing, in which he found the quiet moments outdoors a “rare opportunity.” He knew that Green Island would not have ski trails but wanted to add a winter recreational element. With this, kicksleds in the Norwegian and Finnish styles were funded by Wadena County Public Health. The 12 kicksleds are available in sizes from small child to tall adult with a 125 year old design, according to Scheer.
Green Island is free and open to the public during daylight hours as conditions permit. If you hope to come kicksled, email Scheer at email@example.com to check if the trails are available. The trail conditions are often good when the temperature hovers around freezing and forms the snow into an icy surface, according to Scheer.