Popular television show adapted for hundreds of Calgary classrooms

The Amazing Race features teams of two adults that travel around the world to compete in challenges all for a chances to win a big cash prize.

Kevin Van Es is a physiotherapist with the Calgary Board of Education and was looking for a way to engage students and teachers during this pandemic.

"How do we build some connections," said Van Es. "Some positive experiences and the idea of the Amazing Race being a really nice platform, to have a fun way to build that for students, that was how it all came to be."

He and three of his colleagues scrambled to organize the race that started at the end of April. They expected about 200 classes to participate but 890 preschool to Grade 9 classes actually signed up.

The participants received virtual challenges every Monday and toured Great Britain, Japan, South Africa and Brazil with the finish line back in Calgary June 3rd.

"To see our engagement sustain over the five weeks and actually increase at the end was pretty phenomenal," said Van Es. "Because that's all virtual and that's a new thing for us to use, web sites, videos and all that kind of stuff, that was all huge learning."

New Brighton School Grade 3 teachers Heather Seymour and Alison Gardner created one large team with their combine classes called Team Gardeymour for the race.

"We're actually looking at India, Ukraine and Peru," said Seymour. "And even though we didn't go to those places it really gives that holistic view of really appreciating different cultures and learning about where we are and how we are all so similar and coming together during these difficult times."

The teachers say the students really came together and worked well as a team, earning 638 points over the course of the race placing them first in their division.

Eight-year-old Zaeem Abiola learned about Carnival in Brazil and hopscotch in Great Britain that were challenges in the race. He likes how the two classes formed one team.

"We do a lot of stuff way better when we are together," said Abiola. "Because we got way more points because I know if we didn't do it together we wouldn't get that much points."

Organizers say the vision of this project was to foster positive experiences and connection for students and teachers so they end the year on a high note.

"To be honest, if this is what they remember - the fun challenges and laughter and the games and the coming together as a community," said Seymour. "We would way rather them remember that than a piece of the curriculum that they will or will not forget."