Coasting through class at Portsmouth elementary school

Skateboarding now part of the Melville School curriculum

By Jim McGaw
Posted 5/16/22

Ryan Soares was never good at skateboarding as a kid, but he never forgot how much he enjoyed trying it.

Now the second-year physical education instructor at Melville Elementary School is teaching …

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Coasting through class at Portsmouth elementary school

Skateboarding now part of the Melville School curriculum

Posted

Ryan Soares was never good at skateboarding as a kid, but he never forgot how much he enjoyed trying it.

Now the second-year physical education instructor at Melville Elementary School is teaching students in kindergarten through fourth grade how to ride a skateboard in gym class.

“I thought, if I was a kid, what would I like to do in school, in phys ed?” said Soares, who successfully applied for a grant through Newport Hospital for a new program he calls SkatePass. It started May 1 and is now part of the Melville School curriculum, said Principal Danielle Laurie. 

“We wanted to bring something new and different to the school, and he came up with this skateboarding idea. This is the first year he’s been able to fully implement it,” she said. “I’ve never seen any other school do it, and that’s what I like about it. At Melville, we like to try different things.”

SkatePass aligns with the National Physical Education Standards, and benefits all students in school, Soares said.

“This gives kids who don’t like team sports, or who aren’t the most athletic, an opportunity to shine in front of their peers,” he said, adding it should also cut into students’ “screen time.”

The grant, “a little north of $6,000,” provided 24 longboards, 24 helmets, wrist pads, and knee pads. 

“Longboards are a little different than skateboards,” Soares said. “They’re more for just cruising — getting some exercise. Skateboards are more for tricks and stuff like that. This is more like a bike — they can ride around the neighborhood.”

Students took to the activity right away, he said. They started skating inside, and then took it outdoors when Soares felt they had learned all the safety requirements.

“The first week, a lot of them came up to me saying they’ve never rode one before. They didn’t know how to stand on one. Now, kids in every class across the school — kindergarten through fourth grade — can stand up on their own and coast,” Soares said.

The program has proven to be a hit, with several students planning on getting their own boards so they can cruise their neighborhoods.

“I’ve already had multiple parents reach out saying (buying a longboard) is on their list,” he said. “This is a safe environment to learn the sport, which they can carry into the summer.”

Soares said he picked skateboarding/longboarding for his phys ed class because it’s different.

“Plus, they’re going to remember this forever. ‘Yeah, we did longboarding in gym class.’”

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Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.