Louise Vold, a Lowell Elementary third-grader, didn't let a couple of falls stop her from getting back on her skateboard during the school's new after-school skate club.
“Nice job, Louise, way to get back up!" said Nathan Witbrod, a para-educator at Lowell who started the club.
Witbrod pointed to Vold's rainbow unicorn helmet featuring a mane of bright blue hair down the middle.
"That's pretty radical, huh?" he said, before yelling "Car!" for students to clear the way under the Scott Street bridge where they practice.
Witbrod, who has been skateboarding since the fifth grade, got the idea for the club when he realized it could give students an after-school hobby while also teaching them lessons on grit, independence and noncompetitive play.
He said it also opens the door to an activity that might leave some students feeling marginalized.
"Skateboarders often feel their community and school look down on them for their chosen activity," Witbrod said. "By incorporating it into our school we show disenfranchised students that Lowell cares about them, that they have a distinct (place) in the Lowell family."
Witbrod received 42 applications from students grades K-5, but could only accept 16 to start with. Some of the club's members have been skating for a few months, some for a few years, and for some, this is their first time on a board.
Emma Hewey, a fourth-grade teacher who is helping run the after-school club, said she's also new to skating.
"I thought it would be really cool for the kids to see an adult that is learning, for the kids that are learning, too," Hewey said.
The club is still in its early stages and as Witbrod gathers donations of equipment, the students are taking it upon themselves to share what they have and help mentor those with less skating experience.
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Estella Molloy, a fourth-grader, held the hands of her friend and fellow fourth-grader Priseis Berger, as she guided her on a skateboard around the parking lot.
"We just love skating," Molloy said, who is new to the sport but has longboarded in the past.
Molloy, like many of the students, said her goal is to land an Ollie, a fundamental trick where the skater leaps into the air while keeping feet on the board. So far, she said she has learned to skate over curbs.
One of the club's main goals is to align with a school-wide initiative to help students develop "highly effective" habits that include being proactive, beginning with the end in mind, putting first things first, thinking "win-win," seeking first to understand then to be understood, and "synergize."
Witbrod said the habits manifest in a lot of ways. Learning tricks, for example, helps students develop the habit of beginning with an end in mind.
"In order to learn a trick, students have to see the trick and set their goal to learn that trick," Witbrod said. "… Skateboarding involves a huge amount of 'failure' in the form of not landing a trick while you are learning it."
The club is looking for donations as it works to get its feet off the ground, specifically for skateboards, safety equipment and obstacles, which can be dropped off at Lowell School, or arranged by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Checks can also be made out to Lowell Elementary School with "skate club" in the memo line.
Students are also working on their own fundraising campaigns to help pay for future field trips to local skate parks in the Bitterroot and St. Ignatius in the spring. They're in the process of designing a logo that they'll put on T-shirts and stickers that they sell to raise money.
In addition to the fundraising efforts, the club will be working on various projects throughout the year as they continue to hold weekly practices indoors. For one project, the club will make a film, edit and direct a skate film starring its members.
Witbrod hopes to pair with a high school to build skate obstacles for the spring through shop classes and provide peer mentorship.