New London School District is trying to make walking fun and meaningful.
“We really want it to become intrinsic,” said Shandee Kempf-Cohen, school counselor at Parkview and Readfield Elementary schools, which helped get the walking program in place at Parkview earlier this year.
The goal is that students do “walking because it’s something they enjoy doing.”
The walking programs, called Walk, Run, Fitness Fun, were put in place in 2012 at Readfield and Sugar Bush Elementary schools by Corene Strohfeldt, school counselor at Sugar Bush and Lincoln Elementary, and Kristin Grable, principal at Readfield and Sugar Bush Elementary. At Lincoln Elementary School, students are encouraged to exercise outside but currently face space restrictions.
“Despite the space challenge, plans to start a walking program at Lincoln are in the planning stages to begin in the spring,” Kempf-Cohen said.
Parkview students named their program Witness the Fitness. Kempf-Cohen said the school wants students to take pride in the walking program.
“We are looking for different ways to pump it up and get them excited,” she said.
One way is to purchase mascot costumes. Someone dressed as Percy, the school district’s bulldog mascot, would be able to walk with the students.
ThedaCare, through its Community Health Action Team, donated $4,000 to be used toward the costume purchases as well as wireless speakers to pipe music outside when they kids are walking. CHAT supports physical activity initiatives because it seeks to address obesity and physical fitness as top priorities.
Students have incentive to walk. Every time they walk the course, the student gets a punch on a walking card. They turn in the card for a walking token, which they can wear on a necklace.
“The kids love displaying the tokens they earn,” said Kempf-Cohen, noting that they get excited about special token days and extra punch days.
Other incentives include drawings for special prizes or lunch with the principal.
In addition to Percy, Kempf-Cohen said they hope to have guest walkers. Playing outside at recess is considered exercise, but Kempf-Cohen said the walking program aims to extend it beyond just playing.
“We just want the kids to become more invested in this,” she said. “I think the whole walking program encourages exercise.”
Parkview Elementary started its walking program in the spring of 2014 in an effort to get students moving at recess. “Witness the Fitness” is the name of the walking program and in addition to exercise, the program serves as a structured activity outside aimed at reducing bullying incidences at recess.
Students are given punch cards and outside supervisors punch their cards when they complete a lap. After completing 20 laps, students submit their five miles cards, at which time they receive a foot token for a necklace and their card is entered into a weekly drawing.
Joe Green, Parkview’s principal, also does a monthly drawing for lunch with three students who have turned in completed five mile cards.
Joseph Daly, a first grader at Parkview, is the first student to complete 100 miles. He received a 100 miles t-shirt at the character assembly on Thursday, Feb. 5. The students were so excited for Daly as he received his t-shirt and a bouquet of balloons from Percy, the Bulldog.
Parkview is proud of Daly for his focus and determination in accomplishing his goal.
There are others working towards this goal as. Daly is also already on his way to reaching his second goal of 200 miles.