U of A students design SHED to house sports and play equipment for the Indigenous community

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Sheds may conjure up images of gardening equipment and old lawn mowers, but some competitive students have repurposed the name and filled one with tools for fun in a First Nations community northwest of Edmonton.

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Working with Indigenous mentors, University of Alberta students designed the structure to store and provide access to sports and recreation equipment as well as arts and crafts materials. They dubbed it the SHED (Spiritual Holistic Exercise Den), in Kapawe’no First Nation, just northwest of Lesser Slave Lake.

Undergraduate students from the university’s Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport and Recreation pitched the idea in a case competition as part of their internship, in which participants designed a solution to a challenge posed by an organization. In this case, they were working with the Indigenous Sport Council of Alberta (ISCA), which helps break down barriers that limit Indigenous access to sports and recreation.

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Tracy Whatmore, the faculty internship advisor who organized the competition, said students respond to survey results ISCA collected from the communities it serves, some of which highlighted a need for sports facilities. and physical activity, especially on reserves and in rural areas.

“The survey results revealed that these community members would participate if such programs or access to equipment existed,” Whatmore said in a telephone interview. Out of 22 competing teams, the group behind Project SHED met that demand with a first-place finish, she added, “and so far the evaluation of the project has been incredibly positive.”

With support from a CEWIL Canada grant that funds work-integrated learning, students spent the past winter bringing a pilot SHED to life before launching it in Kapawe’no First Nation in May, Whatmore said. .

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Much like Edmonton’s Green Shack program, which provides play and hobby centers throughout the city, the SHED contains equipment for land-based activities such as archery, fishing and hunting, as well as baseball, volleyball and other mainstream sports, Whatmore added.

Students selected content in consultation with the community, Whatmore explained, and included materials for traditional activities such as beadwork and games such as high kick, a sport in which competitors leap vertically to strike. a suspended target.

“It had to be co-created,” Whatmore said. “It had to reflect what the data shows, and it had to have feedback from those who live in Indigenous communities. »

To this end, the ISCA also provided the student teams with access to Indigenous advisors and judges who guided and assessed their work.

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ISCA Executive Director Jacob Hendy told Postmedia the organization is hearing rave reviews about SHED and interest from several other Indigenous communities who are also hoping for theirs.

“We would love to expand if we can get more funding,” Hendy said over the phone. “Having a one-stop-shop to house everything – not many places have that.”

Whatmore said she was already applying for another grant to fund an expansion.

The SHED pilot cost around $7,500 fully provisioned, she said, and she hopes students will create four more — a potential boon to communities as well as students who can apply their education in the real world. .

Youth stand outside a shed designed to house sports, play and craft equipment at Kapawe'no First Nation.
Youth stand outside a shed designed to house sports, play and craft equipment at Kapawe’no First Nation. Photo by Tracy Whatmore /Provided

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