Megan Cawthorne

Megan Cawthorne

Active Life: Spare Blox program allows kids to get active and creative

NANAIMO – A second program targets younger audience in Nanaimo schools.

Parents who want to get their children active may want to look at City of Nanaimo parks and recreation department’s Spare Blox programs.

The longtime program, for youths 13 to 18 years of age, is still running at John Barsby Secondary School on Wednesday nights from 8-9:30 p.m. and a Spare Blox junior program has started for 11- to 14-year-olds. It runs Mondays from 7-8:30 p.m. at Fairview Elementary School.

Megan Cawthorne, who will graduate with an education degree from Vancouver Island University, is the program leader and said the sports-based program sees direction from children.

“Basically I give the youths total autonomy over the activities, so lots of choice … it’s structured around active play and minor games. We’ve done lots of different games here at Fairview … or different tag games,” said Cawthorne.

She said Barsby participants seem to favour basketball, but the younger crowd at Fairview likes dodgeball-like activities.

“Things that are more like smaller-scale games and maybe non-traditional sports because I think they might get a lot of that at school. Just letting them branch out and try new things on their own and a lot of time they get to create their own games and I’m just there to reinforce the rules that they create,” Cawthorne said.

One of the games created is skittles, said Cawthorne.

“It’s basically a type of dodgeball game … if you get hit a certain number of times, instead of just once, you have to sit down, but there are ways that if you are sitting, to get back in. The point of the game is to knock over the opposite team’s skittles (bowling pins),” Cawthorne said.

She said it is recommended children between five and 17 years of age get 60 minutes of physical activity a day and Spare Blox helps with that.

“Some of these students, especially in elementary, they might only get PE twice or three times a week and if they’re not playing sports outside of school, how are they supposed to be getting that? By having an open gym … it promotes students and youth learning to love physical activity,” said Cawthorne.

Both programs run until the end of May and are offered in partnership with Nanaimo school district.

For more information, please access the City of Nanaimo’s parks and recreation activity guide online at or phone 250-756-5200.