Students in the Papillion-La Vista School District are on the move as part of a new, district-wide program launched this fall. Morning walks are now the norm at the district’s 14 elementary schools.
General guidelines call for children to get at least one hour of physical activity every day. It's a simple concept that has become an extension of the health curriculum. Show up to school a little early and walk around the playground or depending on the day, maybe even the neighborhood. Walking clubs have been loosely organized around the district for some time, but a wellness grant allowed the schools to implement them in every elementary school, every year.
It sometimes draws in as many as 250 children a day, waking them up, clearing their minds and giving them 20 extra minutes to make valuable connections with their teachers and peers outside of the classroom.
Students say this small, daily habit is making a profound difference for them. For many, it's a way to help wiggle out all their excess early morning energy while for others it's just the natural jolt they need to be ready for the day.
"It helps me get ready for school ‘cause usually I'm like all tired, but once I come here I'm not tired anymore,” said La Vista Elementary School student Eduardo Montoya. “I sometimes walk with my friends. I like to talk with them and laugh."
“I'm not as tired. Like yesterday, I didn't do it so I was really tired and I almost fell asleep,” said La Vista Elementary School students Shelby and Cecilia Bernard. "It's a good morning thing. I like doing it every morning just ‘cause it's really fun to get started and walk.”
This daily routine isn't just helping kids stay awake. A proven benefit of working out early is better sleep, which is often connected to improved weight management. Physical activity can do wonders for your mental health. It can make a big different in behavior and cognitive functions.
La Vista Elementary physical education teacher Seth Hiveley says the walking clubs are allowing them to clear up early misconceptions students have about physical activity. “It's walking, but it also shows kids that walking is exercise. It's not vigorous exercise, but you're awake, you get into your classroom and learn. You're just more focused for the teachers.”
Mr. Hiveley points out he's the only male teacher at the school, so it's especially important for him to interact with the kids during walking club and give them a positive male role model. “If it's about their homework or it's about what they did or what they're going to do this weekend, the kids just really enjoy talking to adults."
He says they're trying to bring these clubs into the middle and high schools as well.