Oakland Students Step It Up With 5,000 Mile Challenge

School kids get moving more with prospect of earning rock climbing wall.

January 11, 2013 4:19 p.m.

Few indoor physical educational activities are as challenging and exciting as climbing on a rock wall. And the prospect of earning one has Oakland elementary students willing to walk the extra mile.

Students from kindergarten to sixth grade have been logging their steps since the program kicked off in late October, with a goal of running or walking a total of 5,000 miles by the end of March. The reward is a horizontal rock climbing wall, which will be installed at the school in April. The students climb across it instead of up and down, making it safer and eliminating the need for harnesses.

The challenge was presented to the entire school by Sarah Bush Lincoln’s Healthy Heroes as a way to motivate kids to keep active and develop healthy habits. Part of its Healthy Kids Education program, the Healthy Hero challenge is funded though a $6,000 grant from WomenConnected, a giving circle within the SBL Health Foundation.

“It’s a really great program and the kids are super excited about it,” Oakland school nurse, Vivian Hudson said, adding that students logged more than 1,000 miles during its first month exceeding their goal. “Kids come up to me in the hallway all the time and tell me how many miles they walked or ran.” Hudson was instrumental getting the program launched, approaching Sarah Betts, SBL Healthy Kids Educator, about ways to combat the rising rate of childhood obesity in Oakland. With rock climbing walls installed at other area schools, Betts knew it would provide an exciting reward.

With 160 kids at the school, each child has an individual goal to meet based on their grade, but in order to earn the prize, they will all have to walk or run a little more. Kindergarten and first graders were asked to log four miles per month; second and third graders, six miles per month; and fourth, fifth and sixth graders, eight miles per month. However, some of the older kids are already logging 12 miles a month, Hudson said, to put them closer to their goals. The top three students in each grade get their name added to the Wall of Fame. Those reaching their goals each month also receive a prize, including pedometers, Subway Fresh Fit Kids meals, mini Tri-County Titans footballs, team water bottles, resistance bands and jump ropes.

Though the goal seemed daunting at first, the kids were amazed by their progress in the first month. Keeping track of their miles on a banner of Ian, one of the Healthy Heroes, climbing up a rockwall, “The lunchroom erupted when I moved him up to the next level,” Betts said. “It was amazing for them to see what they could do collectively.”

For more information about Sarah Bush Lincoln’s Healthy Kids Education program, contact Sarah Betts, program coordinator, at 345-2860.

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