NORTH BAY -- In response to the closure of YMCAs across the country, the organization has launched its own eLearning platform to encourage kids to get up and moving while they are physically distancing.

The goal of the program is to help promote mental and physical wellness by ensuring youth get their recommended hour-a-day of physical activity, said Nicole Beattie, the vice president of philanthropy, marketing and communications for the YMCA of northeastern Ontario.

“The YMCA has always shown up in our communities for whatever the biggest need is and we figured through COVID-19, families are inside and they are probably looking for ways to stay active, both for their bodies but also for their minds and their spirit during this time,” she said.

When the province closed down all schools Beattie said that the organization felt that it was its responsibility to find a way to help the community continue to be active.

“We saw that there was a gap. We knew that eLearning was coming in and we knew that the focus, specifically in Ontario was on numeracy and literacy," said Beattie. "We know how important physical activity is to keep our students' minds active and to really have that quality learning time, they need to have that to burn off steam.”

Beattie said that they then reached out to the school boards to try and make this program work in the curriculum.

Liana Blaskievich, the officer of corporate affairs for the Near North District School Board said that she thought this was a great idea, and that she was eager to find ways to work with the YMCA to include physical activity into the curriculum. 

“Rather then simply doing fun exercises for the kids, we started to explore how we could build in the literacy and numeracy into the physical activity and the YMCA was so responsive to that," Blaskievich said.  So, they’ve now built all of the new lessons, including components that come from mathematics and from language."

Blaskievich said that the board is working hard to ensure that the students are taking care of their mental health.

“Physical well-being is also so tied to mental well-being and we want to provide that balance for our students," she said. "The minute this started we started reaching out. I’m so proud of our teachers. We’ve created videos and collages and Facebook messages for our kids to know that were still here were still going to support you please try to relax."

The videos are broken down and targeted to specific age groups. Each class runs about 22-minutes in length. According to the YMCA, students should be doing two of these lessons a day.