Save the Children (and Jack Bourdon Park)!

Laurent works in the field of physical education in the Saint Charles ward of the Primary School d’Ormo in the Duvernay district of Laval. He has been studying there for ten years. This suite accommodates kindergarten students and approximately 210 fifth and sixth graders. At school and in the neighborhood, most people call him Mr. Lawrence .

He has become famous in this society for not compromising his work. For example, file gymnasium of his school, built in the late 1950s, is shockingly small. The place is hardly bigger than a badminton court.

Instead of complaining, Mr. Laurent created a volleyball program that culminates each year with a tournament in which between 90% and 95% of fifth and sixth graders voluntarily participate. The volleyball court is so small that during the year he started playing volleyball, Mr. Laurent gave his fifth graders the right to use the walls during the playing sequence. He has found a way to turn the disability of his local residents into an educational tool.

Mr. Laurent is an energetic and even hyperactive man. Anyone in the softball league will tell you that. But it seems to work more. In the winter, after snowstorms, he uses a small tractor to make big piles in the back of the school yard so the kids can slide on them. He doesn’t have to. But he finds it important that his students are able to take advantage of the fun play areas.

This type of engagement, let’s face it, is not uncommon.

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To counteract the disadvantages of the small gym in the St. Charles Pavilion, Laurent Daust and his groups of students are also among the largest users of Jacques-Bourdon Park, located just behind the school.

Jacques-Bourdon Park is also located in the heart of an island surrounded by a municipal library, two schools, and three day care centers. In addition to being a central element of the area, this park is clearly part of the daily life of the children, young and old, who attend these five establishments.

The garden was designed about sixty years ago, and its age does not betray. It needs a lot of love. It currently consists of a swimming pool and wading pool, games for young children and two mini baseball fields.

However, the space is large and functional enough for students to run, play soccer, play baseball, volleyball, and a host of other activities.

***

So, ten days ago, Laurent Daust told me that he was particularly concerned about the health and physical condition of his students.

Every year since his arrival in Saint Charles, Mr. Laurent has given his students a shuttle test to measure their physical condition and their cardio-respiratory abilities. This test is very simple: all you have to do is cross, back and forth, a distance of 20 meters after an audio signal whose rate increases gradually. The more stages you can cross, the higher your shape will be.

Physical education class in Quebec

Photo: Radio Canada / Bruno Geiger

However, the more years passed, the lower the scores the pupils produced on the shuttle test.

When I started taking the shuttle test around 2014, it was amazing how my students were able to take two or three steps more than today. It is very clear. the difference is big. I talk about it with colleagues from other schools and it seems to be a general case.

Are there still fit children? yes. But in the past, let’s say that out of a group of 26 students, there were 2 or 3 who were really bad. There were about fifteen people in average physical condition and the other five or six were in really good shape. But there, I would say 80% of the students are not in good shape. The gap between the fittest and the rest of the group is huge He says.

***

What Laurent Daust says is not the fruit of his imagination.

Thousands of Quebec students have taken the shuttle test for study purposes since the early 1980s, and many researchers have noticed that our children’s performance and physical condition have declined dramatically over the years.

In an interesting Master’s thesis in Experimental Medicine (University of Laval) written in 2014, René-Claude Gay actually indicated that the results for children were in free fall compared to those compiled in the study by Leger et al. This latest study, which often serves as a reference point for researchers, was conducted in 1982.

For example, an 11.5-year-old boy and girl who were in the 50th percentile in 1982 exceeded 6.8 and 4.9 levels, respectively. In 2014, boys of the same age exceeded only 4 levels. And girls only 3.25.

it is exciting.

I remind you that these stats are from 2014. Mr. Laurent notes that the performance of his students at his school has not improved much since 2014.

He says the consequences of the pandemic have been particularly worrying.

Young people playing frisbee in the yard of St. Joseph's School.

Students learn to play and collaborate with young people of all ages.

Photo: Radio Canada / Benoit Jobin

When his students finally started attending his classes again, the vast majority of them were unable to sit still in India For more than a minute because it hurt her so much. In the trunk flexibility test (sitting on the floor with legs extended and trunk bent toward the feet), an alarming number of children were unable to bend their trunks enough to touch the bottom of their knees! Some even had to stick to their shoulders to do so.

In short, we are in the presence of a passionate and dedicated PE teacher who is concerned, and who realizes that the two hours of lessons he offers per week are not enough to counter this troubling trend. To compensate, he recommends doing exercises at home and tries by all means to teach his students the paramount importance of being active and developing healthy lifestyle habits.

At this point, I think my role is to try to make my students realize that the current situation is dangerous. Sometimes I wonder if kids of this generation won’t start having heart problems in their 30s and not in their 50s or 60s. He said troubled.

***

The straw that broke the camel’s back that worried Mr. Laurent happened on 12 April. Still surprised.

On that day, during an information session (which is still available online (A new window)), Ville de Laval has announced its intentions regarding the redevelopment of the prized Jacques-Bourdon Park. In sum, instead of modernizing and diversifying the sports facilities there the city decided to make them disappear! Get out of the pool and romper. Get off my baseball field.

The change of profession in the park will coincide with a major renovation of the municipal library of Germaine-Guèvremont, also adjacent to the park. The intentions of the Laval administration are very clear. I decided to turn Jacques-Bourdon Park into a beautiful and spacious backyard for the library. We want to make the garden a place where meditative activities are highlighted.

garden map

An aerial view of Jacques Bourdon Garden

Photo: Laval City

So Parc Jacques-Bourdon would have no sporting purpose. City officials have indicated that traditional games for young children will remain in place since there are many daycares and kindergartens nearby. There will also be vast water toys that will obviously only be used by very young children. It is said that a hill will be created so that children can slide there in the winter and that it can be used as a ballroom in the summer.

Finally, a lawn area of ​​relatively modest size can be used as a multi-purpose sports area.

***

During the question session that followed this very friendly presentation by the representatives of the city of Laval, we clearly sensed strong resistance from the citizens. The majority of interventions were related to the importance of maintaining the swimming pool and maintaining sports facilities for the residents of the area.

I was impressed by the citizens’ attachment to this ancient park and their understanding of the strategic importance of this space, given its proximity to schools.

Our children learned to swim in this pool Citizen argued. (I’m paraphrasing the entries here, because they were too long)

She tells us that water toys can be used for longer than a swimming pool, but that these toys will only be used by children aged 0-5 years. The rest of society will lose another appealed.

We will fight to keep our pool! A man in his sixties announced.

A few years ago, the city stopped installing an ice rink in the winter. And there, she told us the pool, rompers, and baseball fields were leaving stressed a woman who was worried about the lack of infrastructure to give young people a taste of movement.

In each intervention, city representatives have always warmly defended their project to redevelop Jack Bourdon Park. They explained that this change of profession is part of a master strategic plan for the city.

***

It’s all about perspective in life.

It might have seemed like a good idea to develop a contemplative garden in the town hall offices. But given the alarming trend developing in his small gym, Mr. Laurent is convinced that this is not the time to hide the sports facilities.

Students run in an elementary school gymnasium.

Students run in an elementary school gymnasium.

Photo: Radio Canada

It is a key moment in the history of the region being played. There are a lot of things that tell us that we adults need to do more to get kids moving.

50 years ago, children were playing outside and everything was simple. Our role now is to make sure that adults of the future are competent, balanced and healthy. If we’re going to combat the eternal buffet of entertainment kids provide in their homes or on their phones or tablets, we need to give them something really interesting outside. These children should have attractive sports facilities in their living environment. He says.

Laval representatives have accepted citizens’ comments, in writing, through April 26. They explained that the comments would be analyzed and that they could be used to improve the concept that had been introduced. The concept will be completed during the summer.

The Ville de Laval pros had better sharpen their pencils before presenting their final version of Jacques-Bourdon Park. Because the citizens of the neighborhood do not seem to be in a state of meditation.

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