Like so many things in 2020, the annual Country Education Partnership (CEP) Energy Breakthrough Challenge (EB) has been prevented by the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Normally, at about this time of year, thousands of students from more than 150 schools would be swarming on Maryborough, Victoria, enjoying all the frivolity and competitiveness of a jam-packed racing and engineering extravaganza.
The event’s cancellation, back in July, was enormously disappointing for all involved.
And though event organisers made every effort to savour the EB Experience with an online Display and Presentation Event, there was no denying the underlining importance of the real racing experience.
Not to be perturbed, one small, rural school in the New South Wales Southern Riverina has decided not even a pandemic will stop it from capturing the EB racing spirit.
Sure, it won’t be in Maryborough and it won’t involve thousands of students — but this EB Challenge will be a day to remember for the lucky kids at Deniliquin North Primary who are preparing to race their way into their school’s history books.
Educator, Christine Downing, says it’s going to be a momentous day of satisfaction and celebration, after a long year in which most extracurricular activities have been taken away.
‘For me, it was a decision to put some stability into the year for the kids,’ Ms Downing says.
‘When the Maryborough event was cancelled it was very disappointing but I decided right then, in that moment, that we would go ahead — we would go it alone and create something special here at home,’ she says.
‘For us, EB is an integral part of the learning that happens in our classroom, and it’s not just about building a pushcart — it’s the learning that goes into the building of the pushcart, and I didn’t want to miss that, I didn’t want to take that away from our kids, no way.
‘The whole EB concept is so much more than a race and it engages the kids in their learning in a way that I actually find hard to put into words – it relates to everything, it’s transferable in everything, and it’s real — and that’s why, for me, it was so important to forge ahead this year.’
And so it is, after months of preparation and innovation, it all comes down to this Friday, when Ms Downing’s two teams – the grade threes (the Deni Demons) and the grade fours (the Deni Destroyers) – will vie for line honours across four races.
Student from the Demons team working on a pushcart. Image: Deniliquin North Primary
It’s going to be a celebration for the whole school community, with a barbecue lunch and a presentation ceremony in the school library at the end of the day.
As Ms Downing puts it; the day’s racing will separate her students as they aim for winning glory, but it will also bring them together to enjoy something positive in an otherwise negative year.
‘I tell you what, the kids have had so much taken away and they’ve had so many let downs this year — but this is something that we can do, this is something we can make happen, and it means so much to them,’ she says.
‘EB has kept purpose in our year — it has given my students something to work towards rather than just surviving through the year – and for that we are extremely grateful.’
Students from the Destroyers team constructing a pushcart. Image: Deniliquin North Primary
Students training for their Energy Breakthrough race. Image: Deniliquin North Primary