Most of us would agree that it’s important for kids to spend time outdoors, to be active, to develop healthy habits that they will carry with them throughout life. But in a world full of digital distractions, how can we make sure that happens?
The answer, parents and teachers at Raleigh’s Harris Creek Elementary School have discovered, is simple. Give them the opportunity!
This past fall Harris Creek launched a running club for its students, grades K-5. The idea for the club arose during a PTA meeting, where school leaders agreed it would be a good way to get kids moving. They initially talked about spending the fall planning, and then start the club up this spring. But Nicole James, a parent at the school, says there was so much excitement that it didn’t make sense to wait.
James, a self-described gym rat, had recently begun competing in triathlons. In April, she’d completed her first half marathon at Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh. Due to her experience, she was tapped to lead the club.
She took off running. Lacking any coaching experience, her first step was finding a training plan. She did some poking around online and came across Kids Run the Nation, a free running curriculum developed by the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA). She used RRCA’s materials to create a training schedule, recruited parent volunteers, and sought local sponsors, including Fleet Feet Sports Raleigh.
“Two weeks later,” she says, “we handed out a stack of permission slips to kids who were interested.” She expected to get a handful back, 20 to 30 at most, but was pleasantly surprised when she received more than 200.
During weekly practices, she and a team of teachers and parent volunteers divided students into two groups based on grade level. Students in K-2 ran relays and sprints. The older students worked on building endurance.
Cynthia Moore, a close friend of James who has volunteered with the club, says that her two sons, like many other students, eagerly await run club days. “This morning they came downstairs,” she says. “They had their windpants on and they were ready for run club. Younger kids don’t usually get to participate in school clubs like chorus and drama, so this is cool.”
But it’s not just the kids. “Parents are out there running. Teachers are out there running. It’s evolved into a big thing for the school,” James says. “We’re trying to get the school healthy.”
On a cool Thursday afternoon in late November, 120 students laced up their sneakers, stretched, and hit the track for their final run of the fall season. James and her team of volunteers had arranged for race bibs and finisher medals to give the kids a taste of the race environment.
The students ranged in age, from kindergarten through fifth grade. What brought them together was their enthusiasm for running.
Afterward they snacked on bananas and orange slices, admired their finisher medals, and asked when run club will start up again in the spring.