up-LIFT-ing experience

Nicole Elam, a third-grader at Ferndale Elementary School, hops on Daisy – a 10-year-old mule – during the school’s yearly LIFT program.

Nicole Elam, a third-grader at Ferndale Elementary School, hops on Daisy – a 10-year-old mule – during the school’s yearly LIFT program. Photo by Joe Tierney.

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MILTON-FREEWATER — Across the Ferndale Elementary School playground, a student worked to slow down the 6-year-old Welsh pony named “Elvis” that she was riding.

“I’ve ridden before, he’s just got more life,” the girl said from her perch.

“You need to pull back and get him to stop,” instructed Lorri Wright, a retired Ferndale teacher who raises Welsh ponies with her husband, John.

Wright went on to describe Elvis’ lively personality.

“ ‘I don’t know where we’re going, but we might as well get there in a hurry,’ ” she imagined the pony saying.

The Wrights were at Ferndale on Friday afternoon running the “Saddle Up” workshop as part of the school’s yearly LIFT program. Wright offered four of her Welsh ponies — and a mule — for students to learn the basics of horse care and riding over the two-day program.

“I love ponies, and I love working with kids and ponies,” Wright said. “It kind of brings out the best in both of them.”

The rides were just one of several activities at the school as part of LIFT — Learning is Fun Too. Members of the McLoughlin High School soccer team and cheer squad were also on the field, teaching students soccer techniques, cheers and hip-hop moves.

Inside the school’s gym, members of the Walla Walla Valley Academy AcroKnights offered several barefoot and sock-clad students an introduction to tumbling and acrobatics. The high school students had performed at the school weeks earlier to spark interest in their workshop.

The activities ranged from hands-on to educational, whether learning how to play guitar in one room or making “treasure rocks” and flubber in another.

Program coordinator Kim Kammenzind, a kindergarten teacher at Ferndale, said LIFT has been around about 20 years, if not more.

The program offers enrichment opportunities for students through fun and hands-on activities, while sharing the varied talents of teachers, parents and community members with the school.

She described the program as “a chance for the school to include community members, and to see teachers in another light.”

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