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January 24, 2023 Karen Lewis

Winter Break Programs Get Kids Outside Across the KMTA!

What’s better than playing outside? Playing outside with friends! This year, KMTA held a series of day programs for K-12 kids throughout the Heritage Area over winter break that included cookie decorating, kicksledding, and a variety of snow-centric activities. We provided four programs held in Girdwood, Hope, Moose Pass and Seward to local KMTA kids free of charge. Participating youth spent the days enjoying their community spaces and one another, taking full advantage of their break from school to get some fresh air and have some fun! 

Each program had a generally similar schedule of events but were unique to the individual kids’ interests and adapted to suit the conditions of the day. In Girdwood, a few inches of fresh snow, a warm up from the frigid temperature earlier in the week, and a shared love of Minecraft had us using snow saws to cut cubes for block snowmen. They were promptly and gleefully smashed upon completion by their builders. In Hope, an indefatigable crew of diggers and several avid artists created a network of snow tunnels, slides, and caves that were then decorated with a colorful array of snow art. Held at the Hope School, these structures expanded the already impressive array of existing kid-designed snow architecture around the school grounds, which includes a cave with 5 entrances and a multi-room “snow hotel.”  

 I likely do not need to remind you about the weather we were treated to following Christmas. In case you forgot or were fortunate enough to be out of town – a powerful storm system brought rain and wind that covered much of the KMTA region, communities and transportation corridors in a treacherous sheet of ice. KMTA kids were undaunted by this slippery turn of events however and made the best of it. 

 In Moose Pass, the warm up made for perfect snowball-making conditions and we were treated to a unique opportunity: could the chance to shape bowling pins and balls out of the snow that slid with ease and accuracy on the ice-covered “lane!” Several of the boys engaged in an hours-long snowball standoff that likely would have continued long into the night had we left them to their own devices. On our final day in Seward, the kids set out from the library and took advantage of a break in the rain to explore along Resurrection Bay and play in the snow at the park-turned-ice rink, grabbing one another for support as they slid around and took their friends down with them in fits of smiles and laughter.  

While the kids put their personal spins on each day, two activities were constant across all four program days: cookie decorating and kick sledding. Sugar cookies, homemade by yours truly, featured shapes familiar to those who live and play in the KMTA: wildlife, float planes, spruce trees, stars, and especially important this time of the yearsweaters! To go along with their decorated cookies, kids drew murals that were completed with the addition of their cookie masterpieces. Many of these scenes creatively represented life in the Heritage Area from the perspective of some of its youngest residents. 

The other central activity – kick sledding – was familiar to some participants, new to many, and loved by all! The kick sleds are a recent addition to the Whittier Community School’s fleet of outdoor recreation equipment. Acquired as part of a three-year programmatic grant from KMTA, a few of them were generously shared with us to use during our winter break programs. A huge thank you to the Whittier Community School and Victor Shen for sharing these endless sources of fun. They were the highlight of the program for many participants. Conditions varied greatly between program days but the kick sleds made for a perfect outdoor activity in both the firm snow and ice. Easy to use for kids of all sizes, program participants had a blast taking turns driving and riding as they sledded up and down their community streets. They made for a perfect complement to cookie decorating. The sugar high was immediately put to good use with some kick sled relays and speed races! 

Our winter break programs were offered out of each community’s local hall or community room. We are so grateful for the presence of these spaces throughout the Heritage Area. Without them these programs would not be possible! A special thanks to Girdwood Parks & Recreation, Seward Community Library & Museum, Moose Pass Sportsman’s Club, and Hope School for working with us to provide these opportunities to local kids. 

 All said, we’re beyond excited by the success of this program series and want to give a big THANK YOU to all who participated and supported the program through in-kind and financial donations. We look forward to continuing to work in and with KMTA communities to best serve local families and connect kids to this one-of-a-kind place they call home. If you’d like to help us further our mission of getting kids outside in the KMTA, check out our Ways to Support page here or our direct donation link here.