Low-cost activities that have multiple benefits are just what schools need these days. Thats why the staff at Ellis Elementary School in Belleville, Illinois, has come up with a year-long program that meets students physical, social, and academic needs.
Called the 100 Mile Club, the program requires students to walk daily on a half-mile track. They record their laps with the goal of logging 100 miles by the end of the school year, if not sooner.
Now kids arrive in the morning and head right to the track, said Ellis principal Pam Leonard. They used to just sit on the buses until school started.
Second- through fourth-graders are required to walk one lap before school, provided they get to school early enough; and one lap at recess. They can walk and talk with friends, and run or jog if they wish, said Leonard. And if they do one lap around the track at recess, they still have time for some free play and they get a chance to talk with their friends. A supervisor keeps track of students laps.
Leonard and many teachers already have noted the clubs positive impact on student behavior. Discipline referrals are down significantly from last year, Leonard said. Teachers say the students are more settled when they come in from recess or when school starts, Leonard noted. They are ready to work. They notice that kids are less fidgety.
Students names and the number of miles they walked are posted in the gymnasium, so that motivates many of them, said physical education teacher Claudette Graetz. There is real competition among the fourth graders to see who gets to 100 miles first, she told Education World.
To kick off the program in September, all students in grades 2-4 got necklaces with a shoe charm on them. Students receive a new charm each time they complete 25 miles and they are honored at the schools citizen of the month assemblies. Were going to hold a big celebration when several students get to 100 miles; we hope we can have two a year, Leonard said. She had planned to have cake and ice cream, but the PE teacher encouraged her to serve more healthful snacks.
Leonard instituted the 100 Mile Club at the beginning of this school year to help students get regular exercise and give some structure to recess. Third and fourth graders take the President Physical Fitness Test twice a year, which includes a mile run. The physical education teacher had noticed a decline in the number of students who could run or even complete a mile by walking and jogging, said Leonard.
Students take the test in the fall, and then try to better their times when they take the test again in the spring. Im anxious to start tracking improvements, said Graetz. When I look at some students times, I expect to see decreases in times [it takes students to complete a mile]. They are competing against the clock. I want to see if their time in the spring is faster.
Also, the playground had been ground zero for student conflicts and discipline referrals always were highest after recess.
The faculty and community also have embraced the 100 Mile Club. While initially students and teachers walked on a path mowed through the grass, in October members of the custodial staff and the PTO donated time and materials to pave a half-mile track for the school, even smoothing out bumps and including a drainage system. Now kids dont get their feet wet when walking, Leonard told Education World. Guest walkers, such as parents and other community members, often join the students.
Even winter weather may not even slow the walkers. While there may be some days the students will have to stay indoors for recess, Ellis students go outside as long as the temperature is not below 20 degrees and the playground is cleared of snow and ice, Leonard said.
They get to work on social relationships and fitness. The interaction [with friends] is what stays with the kids forever, said Leonard. Its the opportunity to reach a goal with a friend.