New exercise program energizes elementary school students
VANCOUVER — This year at King’s Way Christian Elementary School students are hitting the track before they hit the classrooms. Every morning exercise comes first.
The Morning Mile program was adopted by elementary school Principal Lynette McHenry at the start of the school year, and is a component of the school’s Purposeful Play movement.
The last Morning Mile also happened to be Pajama Day at the elementary school.
“First two lanes are for runners, third lane is supposed to be kind of that transition lane and then four through eight is walkers,” McHenry said, as she walked out in her pajamas alongside all her students. “They can be with anybody they want. They connect with their reading buddies, they connect with their old teachers, they connect with their brothers and sisters. So it’s just really a neat opportunity for connection.”
Each morning from 8:30 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. students, their teachers, staff and parents gather at the track to walk or run for 15 minutes. Classes file out together and then regroup at the end. Some days the elementary school students are joined by students from the middle school as well.
“Kids are moving, their brains are starting to get the oxygen, the energy that they need in order to perform,” she said.
Morning Mile is a global movement with the goal of fighting childhood obesity and encouraging healthy exercise habits. To date, all the schools involved in the program, including King’s Way, have ran over 3 million miles.
Morning Mile fit well into the school’s Purposeful Play program, McHenry said. The program was designed to expand exercise beyond PE class, and incorporate it into multiple times of the day.
McHenry explained that they want to equip their students with skills that they can then use during recess and at home. The exercises, activities and habits students learn in gym time and during the Morning Mile also give an outlet for all the excess energy that is so common among elementary students, she said.
“It’s really about problem solving. How do we help kids have opportunities to solve problems on their own? By giving them the tools ahead of time, so that they can apply those tools,” she said. “When I know what I’m supposed to do,
I can be successful.”
The time on the track is also used by teachers and McHenry herself, as an opportunity to reach out to students who are struggling in class. The more social environment allows for check-in time and added support for the student.
“Kids learn from play,” she said. “They learn when they interact with each other. They learn how to be kind, and caring and think about others, which is something we really work on … our character.”
The school said they are already seeing improvements in student’s ability to focus faster at the start of the school day, and learn more engaged after running or walking in the mornings.
Kings Way encourages parents to sign in and join the students during the Morning Mile, as well as volunteer through programs like Watch DOGS (Dads of Great Students).
McHenry also explained how new in-class activities are being paired with the time directly following Morning Mile and other Purposeful Play activities; many of which creative in nature. Teachers work on a rotation schedule of planning time to brainstorm and come up with new activities and lessons centered around creative thinking.
“We have a lot of right brain going on here. We want to make sure we’re getting some left brain in there,” she said.