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Running for Fun and Fitness

Not much of a fitness fan as a child, Carol Goodrow wanted her students to develop an appreciation for healthful eating and exercise at a young age. Her running club teaches kids that keeping fit and eating right is fun and easy. Included: Descriptions of an exercise program for young children.

As a child, teacher Carol Goodrow disliked exercise, and felt gawky and clumsy in physical education classes. As an adult, she became an avid runner, and learned the benefits of regular, non-competitive exercise, and healthful eating.

Those are lessons she wants more children to learn, and so in spring 2004 she started the Miles of Math Kids Club at Birch Grove Primary School in Tolland, Connecticut. First and second graders spent one day a week for ten weeks learning about (and tasting) healthy snacks, such as fruit and nuts, and running and walking laps outside. Students kept an exercise and snacking log in their copies of Happy Feet, Healthy Food, a book written and illustrated by Goodrow. They also calculated how many miles they traveled and how many minutes they exercised every week. The session concluded with a family fun run.

Carol Goodrow discusses exercise and healthful eating with students before hitting the field.
(Education World photo)

The club was so successful that Goodrow planned to hold two sessions in 2005, starting with one in the fall. She plans to change the name to Happy Feet, Healthy Food Kids' Club, to better reflect the group's focus.

"I don't make it competitive," Goodrow, a special education teacher, told Education World during one of the last club meetings in May 2004. "I'm trying to make children enjoy the activity, and build a lifelong interest in fitness."

INTRODUCTION TO EXERCISE

In its first year, the club drew so many children that Goodrow had to split it into two groups of 20 children. One or more parent volunteers usually helped with the meetings.

"I figure exercise once a week is better than none," said Goodrow, who also has a Web site, KidsRunning.Com. "They are learning to enjoy exercise and healthy eating."

Aiyla, a second grader, said she joined the club because she likes math and running, and now runs more. She also has learned "that you shouldn't just eat junk food."

Lisa Donor, a parent volunteer, said while her family bikes and hikes when they can, she likes knowing that her son, Jason, a second grader, is getting extra exercise. "I think he's learning about healthy snacks and exercise and this helps him socialize," Donor said. "It's good for him to be active and out with other kids. These are good activities for them, like the relay race."

RUNNING FOR FUN

Before going outside to run, students spent time in a classroom reviewing the weekly activity in their books, and reading about a healthful snack, which that week was nuts. When Goodrow asked students who brought healthful snacks, some had potato chips or cookies, but many munched on granola bars, apples, or other fruit.

Carol Goodrow joins children in a late-afternoon run.
(Education World photo)

"I've had really good discussions about eating," Goodrow told Education World. "A second grader said he used to eat candy all the time, but after reading the book with his father, he found out that fruit is just as sweet as candy, so now he just eats fruit [for a snack."]

Joe, 7, said he has learned from the club that oatmeal, celery, and carrots are all healthful snacks. "You get to run around," he said about the club. "It's fun."

Outside, children jogged a lap around the field, a distance of about a quarter of a mile, and then ran a lap; several tried to sprint the whole distance. Goodrow then took the youngsters for a short walk in the woods.

Emily, 7, a first grader, said that, although doing splits is her favorite exercise, since she has been in the club, she has been running more. "I like this better than my sister chasing me," she said.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

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