Eden II in New York has a wonderful Running Club for their students. We love the story behind it, the ease with which they implemented it and think it’s a fantastic idea for any school or agency as a way to get kids into shape and out into the community. Here’s their story:
In early 2008, Randy Horowitz, Associate Executive Director of Educational Services at Eden II tried to get the staff together to run for better health. Johanne and Chickie, both behavior specialists, thought it could be a good way to include both students and teachers. And so, the Eden II running club began with a small group of student who were selected by age, weight and the ability to be outside without engaging in difficult behaviors.
Originally they had seven students aged 10 and above but the program grew as more parents found out about the club and wanted their children to participate in a mainstream activity. There are now 58 members at two program sites. A new club, the Pee Wee Running Club for students 5-9, began a year ago and already has 25 members.
Each club goes out once a week. The older students go out to Clove Lakes Park or to the Eltingville YMCA indoor track, depending on the weather. For safety reasons, the Pee Wee Running Club trains only at the Eltingville YMCA indoor track.
Every parent is asked about her child’s daily routine and current level of physical activity before individual training plans are created. The goals are kept very simple, “will walk 20 consecutive minutes before stopping to rest”. A familiar staff person from each student’s classroom is assigned to work with him during training sessions. That staff person is responsible for keeping the child safe and hydrated as well as modeling and prompting stretching techniques. Most students quickly adjust to the routine of walking and jogging around a track or along the park’s running path.
Timers and verbal praise are used to encourage some students to continue walking orjogging until they can take a break. Students with fewer cognitive challenges are also learning about proper nutrition while working with staff during running club outings.
There have been a lot of surprises. It was never expected that some of the kids jogging and even walking without prompting. The kids genuinely like it and have fun doing it. Some of them have lost weight, and many of them are a lot calmer for the rest of the day after getting out for some physical activity in the morning.
Johannes runs with a particular student every Monday. He loves trying to break his record and feels so proud of himself afterward. One of the things his mom stressed when he became part of the running club was that he had little to no self-confidence, and she’s very happy that running seems to have helped immensely with his self esteem. To keep him motivated, he is given some kind of award certificate every time he breaks his record.
Randy, Johannes and Chickie believe this model could work for other agencies, because it doesn’t require anything complicated. Just keep the goals simple, and as long as safety, transportation and staffing aren’t issues, any school can start a running club.