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Friday, Oct. 24, 2014

Principal starts walking program for students

Thursday, May 18, 2006

(Photo)
Southeat Elementary School third grade students run during the start of the class's walkingn program.
SIKESTON -- Huffing and puffing, third grader Tanner Henson briskly walked his second lap around the school playground area, proving not all youngsters these days are couch potatoes.

Every lunch period over the past couple months, Tanner and several of his classmates spend their 30-minute post-lunch recess walking laps around the perimeter of Southeast Elementary School's playground.

"I like do it a lot," Tanner said about participating in the walking program. "I like to go by myself a lot and sometimes I'll catch up with my friends."

The total number of laps Tanner has walked since the program started is in the 40s, he said.

Other students have also completed a high number of laps.

"I like that I get to exercise and it keeps me healthy," said Kylie Ritter, who prefers to run when she tackles the course.

But you have to wear running shoes every day, Elizabeth Sewell pointed out. Elizabeth said she likes to run/walk because all of her friends do it.

"We want to get exercise and build stronger bones," said Mathis Copeland as he jogged around the course.

And that game of kick ball can wait. Several of the boys opted to get their two laps in -- which also gets them one step closer to receiving one of Sturgess' reward offers -- before devoting their last 10 minutes of recess to kick ball.

"I like to run because you can get fast in baseball so you don't get out as much," said Austin Hay, who has completed 43 laps.

The American Obesity Association says outside of the home, children and adolescents spend the majority of their time in school.

Realizing this, principal Kathy Sturgess decided to put her lunch hour, which is the same as the third grade, to use by offering to supervise students who wanted to use their recess to walk or run the course.

"There's so much in the news about children not being active enough. During my lunch time, I decided to start a walking program," Sturgess said.

The percentage of children and adolescents who are overweight and obese is now higher than ever before, according to the American Obesity Association.

About 30 percent of children ages 6 to 11 and 30 percent of adolescents ages 12 to 19 are overweight and 15 percent of each age group are obese.

Southeast Elementary's school nurse Brenda Nimmo said the walking program is one way students can fight childhood obesity because it gets them exercising.

"I was really pleased when I heard about (what Sturgess was doing) because of the increased activity," Nimmo said. "Kids today are playing video games and watching TV, and the number of kids playing outside has decreased from the number when I was a kid or kids from years ago."

Sturgess tracks the number of laps students walk/run each day -- two is the most students receive credit for, but many walk three.

The first reward was students who complete 10 laps got to have a picnic. "Well in five days, they had 10 laps," Sturgess said.

She expanded the goals, and the next reward was a whistle for those who completed 20 laps and then for those who have 40 laps, they will receive a pedometer.

The only kink Sturgess had to work out once she started the program, was creating a system that would ensure the students didn't fib about whether they circled the course twice.

Sturgess' answer? Color-coded slips with students names. When the students' pass Sturgess, she gives them a slip. This also helps in case Sturgess can't recall whether a specific students' passed by her once, twice or three times.

Although some of the students say they haven't noticed an improvement in their activity, their principal has.

"When we first started, it took them the whole recess time to complete two laps, and now they're finished with the two laps with 10 minutes left for playing time," Sturgess said.

Sturgess admitted when the program began, about 60 of the 75 students participated. That number has since dropped to an average of 25 students a day.

"Some did lose a little interest," Sturgess said.

Although the exact distance of course isn't known, most students walk two laps -- and sometimes three during the period, Sturgess said.

And with the end of the school year quickly approaching, Sturgess said she hopes to continue the walks next school year and possibly through this year's summer school.

Regardless, Tanner said he will keep walking or running -- either around his home or somewhere. "It's good exercise," he said.