Agassiz teacher’s Amazing Race takes students on Canada-wide adventure

AESS students say they had the experience of a life time

An Agassiz teacher has set a new standard in field trips after he took 36 Agassiz Elementary Secondary School (AESS) students on a Canada-wide Amazing Race adventure.

AESS Sciences teacher Leonard Naimi spent 10 months organizing, coordinating and fundraising for a trip that had grade 11 and 12 students racing across 5,000 kilometres, three provinces and 12 cities in only 10 days. Teams of three to four students (and an adult guide) followed a series of clues across the country, taking on new feats – big and small – as they went.

The race started Oct. 31 at AESS where teams received their first clue. That day Amazing Race-ers faced six challenges including Halloween costume shopping at Value Village, a ‘smoked oysters challenge’ and navigating the Chilliwack Corn Maze, before heading to the Abbotsford International Airport to catch a 5:30 p.m. flight to Hamilton, Ont.

Upon arrival, the students took on a “massive pancake eating challenge” at Denny’s.

And that was just day one.

In Laval, Que., students got to try indoor skydiving at Skyventure Montreal. (Submitted)

Over the next nine days, teams faced everything from a poutine challenge in La Banquise and indoor skydiving in Montreal to a surprise scavenger hunt around the Parliament Building in Ottawa and rides in military tanks at the Ontario Regiment Museum.

A series of checkpoints throughout the trip not only helped guides keep track of kids, but allowed Naimi to track their time. Points were also added or taken away from teams for their completion of smaller, detail-oriented challenges like taking 40 pictures with different strangers in the Toronto Eaton Centre Mall, finding and photographing a series of monuments or locating the same book in three different libraries.

Along the way, teams had to find their own transportation and used trains, buses and rental cars to get to each checkpoint or challenge.

Inspired by the CBS TV show, Naimi has been taking students on ‘Amazing Race’s’ for a few years – his first was smaller, with teams racing across Agassiz. The second race covered more ground, taking students across seven B.C. cities. This year was Naimi’s biggest yet, and planning was no easy feat.

Related: AESS students compete in an ‘amazing race’ around Lower Mainland

“I usually come up with a final destination, and then it’s all about, ‘how do I get them there?’” he said. “This year, it was the CN Tower…everything was planned around getting to that point…I’m a big fan of the TV show and I wanted to make this feel like the real thing.”

And the race didn’t just take students sightseeing – it had them exploring every nook and cranny of Canadian cities, taking on thrilling new challenges like indoor surfing in Quebec City and zip-lining in Niagara Falls.

In Toronto, AESS students went to Casa Loma and the Eaton Centre. One of their final, and most daunting, challenges was the Edge Walk of Toronto’s CN Tower. (Submitted)

The final challenge was as big a hurdle for Naimi – who took part in challenges alongside students – as it was for participants.

Two members from each team had to complete the Edge Walk on the CN Tower. Strapped into harnesses, participants walked the circumference of the tower, the tallest building in Toronto, a cool 356 metres (1,168 feet) above the ground.

“Some people were terrified to do some of the [challenges] but they still did them and they loved it afterwards,” said grade 12 student Maykayla Morissette. “You’re like, ‘wow, I’ve done this before, what if I do this next?’”

Some challenges were less exciting, like navigating public transit and learning to work with team members in a stress-filled, high-pressure, competition. But Naimi is proud of his students and confident they now have memories and skills that will last a lifetime.

“Most of the kids won’t go into chemistry after they leave my class – I get that. So I thought, what can I actually teach them that they can take away with them once they graduate?” he recalled. “The Amazing Race gives them those lifelong lessons but it also gives them lifelong memories…and that’s something I think is more valuable than what I can teach them in class.”

Students returned Saturday and Naimi is still calculating the results of the race. He expects to determine a winning team soon. Winners or not, participating students feel they already won the jackpot by having Naimi as their teacher.

Sciences teacher Leonard Naimi and AESS Amazing Race co-host Jaydin Lees pose during the CN Tower Edge Walk – one of the final challenges of the race. (Submitted)

“It was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity and when we look back at our high school experience, we’ll say, this was it,” grade 12 student Rionna Vander Wyk said. “Knowing our teacher planned all this for us – to benefit us…to push us out of our comfort zones. He did it all with the class in mind, it’s just super cool.”

Grade 12 student Annalise Wilkinson agreed.

“In chemistry I learned how to balance equations, but with the Amazing Race, now I know how I can push myself to do stuff,” she said.

Morissette said the trip “was the peak moment of her high school life.”

“Naimi is the most dedicated teacher you will ever meet and we are blessed to have him at this school.”

Related: Amazing Race Canada competitors face B.C. challenge



nina.grossman@ahobserver.com

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