As it turned out, being forced to go online was a good thing in many ways for the Langley Equestrian Academy, the unique Langley School District program that allows young riders to combine competitions with school studies.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the shutdown of classrooms forced an abrupt switch to online video instruction.
It went well, much to the relief of Eileen Jonker, the teacher who runs the academy.
“We’ve actually been able to do this seamlessly,” Jonker told the Langley Advance Times.
“We were kind of built for this.”
Created because otherwise bright students were falling behind in school when they tried to balance training and competition with school schedules, the academy was already using a variety of different learning and teaching techniques with young students, who are, by definition, tech-savvy.
“They’re comfortable with a lot of different mediums to connect,” Jonker observed.
“It wasn’t a difficult stretch for our students.”
Videoconferencing, using Microsoft Team, permits even greater flexibility, allowing the academy to bring in speakers like Langley’s Tiffany Foster, an elite rider who clinched victory for Team Canada at the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup last June.
“I think it [going online] opened up my world,” Jonker commented.
“It opened up the students world.”
It has allowed the academy to clear the hurdles created by COVID-19 without suffering downtime, Jonker described.
“Kids have been able to share what they’re doing during the pandemic.”
Still, online video can’t be a substitute for in-person instructing and hands-on learning, Jonker added.
But as a supplement, video offers increased flexibility and the potential ability to reach beyond Langley and the Lower Mainland.
“We could build this into something extraordinary,” Jonker enthused.
Going forward, Jonker expects online education will continue to be a part of the course even after regular classes resume.
Before the coronovirus shutdown classrooms, the Langley Equestrian Academy, based at Brookswood Secondary School, allowed students attend classes three to five days a week under a flexible schedule that can be adjusted to accommodate riding.
Students could go out riding with their personal coaches on the same days they take classes, mixing morning rides with afternoon studies or vice versa.
Classes included courses in stable management and other equestrian-related skills, along with regular academic courses.
More advanced riding-related training includes lessons in sports psychology, athlete fitness, nutrition, networking with other athletes and managing sponsors.
Some students had an opportunity to work directly with fully certified teachers and professional equestrian mentors, attend equine clinics, and hear from riders, veterinarians and other experts in the field.
With a motto of “passion, growth and courage,” the Academy program offers a flexible mix of regular classroom and equestrian-related courses for middle and secondary school students.
For more information, contact Ejonker@sd35.bc.ca or call 604-916-0961.