Boating class always big splash

For three weeks in May, up to 12 canoes and kayaks can be seen navigating the calm waters of Orr Park&8217;s Shoal Creek, just beside Montevallo Elementary School. The daily outing is a tradition PE teacher Tim Ray started 23 years ago.

As a long-time canoeist and kayaker, Ray combined his personal passion with a desire to expand the school&8217;s PE curriculum and began offering the class to 4th and 5th-graders. The school borrowed canoes from a local Boy Scout troop and used a student teacher&8217;s truck to bring them down to the creek.

&8220;It was kind of learning as we go,&8221; Ray said of hauling eight canoes, a pile of equipment and a handful of children to the water and back.

Since its start, Ray has acquired three grants totaling $8,000 to help purchase equipment. The program now boasts eight kayaks, in addition to the canoes, and 120 students&8212;that&8217;s about 60 percent of the fourth and fifth grade&8212;participating. All are welcome as long as they exhibit good behavior and know how to swim.

&8220;We start with water safety,&8221; Ray said. &8220;After that we get into the basics of canoeing, which is learning how to load the canoes, how to get in and out of them, how to sit in the canoes, how to hold paddles, how to paddle the canoe and how to get it to go where you want it to go.&8221;

One of the first things he teaches is a canoe will only do five things.

Fourth-grader Harrison Hartley declared proudly, &8220;It will go left, right, forward, back and tump over.&8221;

The class fits into the regular 30-minute time slot and meets outside as often as weather permits during the three weeks.

While it teaches water safety and gets kids moving, fellow PE teacher Laurie Baker points out another plus. &8220;Some of them would never experience that ever,&8221; Baker said.

She also knows the amount of effort Ray puts into the program, loading and unloading boats into and out of the water every 30 minutes. &8220;A lot of people wouldn&8217;t go to that much trouble, but he does,&8221; she said.

&8220;It&8217;s not like rolling out half a dozen basketballs,&8221; Ray said, but added, &8220;It&8217;s gratifying to see students take up what is a lifetime sport.&8221;