By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Over 100 third, fourth, and fifth graders at Cherokee Elementary School took to the track on the afternoon of Thursday, Sept. 28 to kick-off a new program. Six days after the Active Routes to School program launched at New Kituwah Academy, the program came to Cherokee Elementary.
“What we’ve learned is that exercise before school can have all kinds of benefits,” Jackie Moore, Active Routes to School Region 1 coordinator, told the students in an assembly at the Chief Joyce Dugan Cultural Arts Center prior to them hitting the track for two laps.
She noted that early morning workouts have many benefits including improved test scores, better retention, and improved classroom behavior. “It helps your recall, and it helps you learn things better.”
Scott Rossa, Cherokee Elementary School physical education teacher, related that the school will host Walking Wednesdays where students are encouraged to come to school early and meet in the gymnasium (7-7:15am). Weather permitting, they will walk for 20 minutes on the track; otherwise, they will walk in the gym itself.
“Why are we doing this program?” Coach Rossa asked the students. “Well, first of all, we want to get in a good exercise program and getting exercise in the morning is going to be great. Also, we want you to have a chance to make some new friends and develop some camaraderie in the mornings. Last, but not least, we want to keep in mind that our goal is to walk across North Carolina.”
Each time the students walk, their distance will be accumulated and tracked to see how far they can go with the goal being going from Cherokee to Cape Fear. “The first place that we’re going to be ‘walking’ to is Lake Lure which is about 60 miles from our school.”
Coach Rossa then told the students who erupted in cheers and claps, “We are going to walk the entire length of our state!”
The Active Routes to School program is a subset of the national Safe Routes to School. “We have been working in 100 counties in North Carolina getting kids walking and biking ideally to school, but in the mountains where you can’t, we walk at school,” Moore told the One Feather at the New Kituwah kick-off event.
UNC Charlotte published a study in the journal “Movement, Health, and Exercise” in February entitled “Exercise before school benefits students throughout the day”. The study found that students increased their math test scores and considered themselves more confident as a result of participating in a 15-minute aerobic exercise before school.
“It was powerful to hear how the students perceived the relationship between physical activity and being ‘ready to learn’,” Dr. Erik Byker, UNC Charlotte Department of Reading and Elementary Education professor, said in a statement. “This finding reinforces the importance of daily physical activity during the school day, whether it is before or during school, as it prepares kids for the more traditional, sit-down type of learning.”
The program kicked-off at Cherokee Elementary School on Sept. 28, but the first Walking Wednesday is set for Oct. 11.