Students at Edgewater Park Public School and Claude E. Garton Public School in Thunder Bay, Ont. will be honing their hockey skills this winter.

These schools will be hosting Thunder Bay's first hockey skills academies, as part of the physical education curriculum.

The academies will focus on developing technical playing skills of hockey such as puck handling and shooting.  

"That skill development that kids use to [get] on the outdoor rink playing with their friends doesn't seem to be developed as much anymore," said Joe Gaudreau, a teacher for Lakehead Public Schools and president of the Volunteer Pool Bearcats hockey club.

Unlike the First Shift programs at McKellar Park Central School and Ogden Community Public School, which focus on low barrier ways to get kids into organized hockey, this academy has a fee and students must provide their own equipment.

Many of the students are enrolled in a hockey program outside of school as well but about half of the kids at Edgewater Park Public School haven't played before, said the school's principal Vicki Shannon.

"Our intent was maybe that they would be able to go to an outdoor rink and be able to join a pickup game or do something like that," said Shannon.

The program will be offered to students in Grades 4 to 8 at Claude E. Garton Public School, and from Grades 5 to 8 at Edgewater Park Public School. Students will train with teachers that are also certified coaches and parent volunteers once a week during school hours.

"I think it gives the kids a super exciting reason to love what they're doing in school and to see that even something like hockey can connect to curriculum and connect to what they're learning," said Shannon Jessiman-MacArthur, principal of Claude E. Garton Public School.