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Students are on a new track

Northlake Hills Elementary School encourages exercise, healthy living

Posted: September 7, 2009 9:19 p.m.
Updated: September 8, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Students at Northlake Hills Elementary School try out their new track during its dedication Aug. 27.

 
Students, faculty and administration gathered Aug. 27 to initiate the new track at Northlake Hills Elementary School as part of the school's new Fitness and Wellness program geared to encourage nutrition and health education for students.

As the ribbon was cut during the ceremony, students were invited to run on the quarter-mile-long track and get their feet moving toward a healthy future.

"We wanted to create a program to integrate nutrition, fitness and goal-setting to assist our students in living a happier, more productive lifestyle," said Principal Bob Brauneisen.

"Through setting challenging yet attainable goals, the students can learn to develop healthy routines that will help them through the rest of their lives."

Brauneisen invited first- through fifth-grade students onto the track to be the first to run its freshly decompressed granite surface.

Students who ran were winners from the school's read-a-thon during the last school year, which was organized to raise funds for the new track.

Students burst through the ribbon showing off their moves, but running on the track is only part of what students will be learning how to do.

The track was built to implement the school's Soaring Eagles Marathon Club, a program designed to give students the opportunity to obtain goals and increase fitness levels.

Three times a week, students who join the program will run the track at the beginning of recess with the long-term goal of running 26.2 miles, the distance of a real marathon.

Setting the goal of running marathon distances over a several-month period, school staff and administration hope to see much more than developed calf muscles among their student body.

"Through this multi-faceted program, students will learn to set goals, reach goals, persevere and encourage others along the way," said third-grade teacher Kimberly LePage. "Our hope is that they will learn to believe in themselves by feeling successful in reaching a goal that they have set."

LePage began the Marathon Club in her own third-grade classes three years ago as a way to incorporate physical education into classroom hours of instruction.

"It's easy to get caught up in teaching the essentials of reading, writing, math and science," LePage said. "P.E. often gets pushed to the side due to time constraints."

LePage instructed students to run around the school's grass field for 20 minutes after lunch every day.

"I noticed that after running, the students would return to class much more alert and productive," LePage said. "Eventually they thrived off of it, never wanting to miss a day."

LePage collaborated with Brauneisen to formulate the idea behind the club and expand it to students throughout the school.

"Each and every student will get a chance to shine through this program," LePage said. "Best of all, it will teach them that they can do anything as long as they put their minds to it, practice hard and try their very best."

Determination and perseverance aren't the only lessons students will learn while using the track.

Students also learned fundamental math skills while running the quarter-mile length.

"Understanding fractions and how they relate to real life is a tough concept for most 8-year-olds," LePage said. "By running one quarter of a mile, they learn that they have three-quarters left to reach a full one. It's surprising how much this concept is understood after they've actually run it."

Math isn't the only class being taught with a boost of fitness education.

The school has also organized an after-school nutrition club, to be taught by LePage.

Students will learn about healthy eating habits and how to properly exercise physical activity on a daily basis.

"Our school community is determined to encourage our children to be active participants in making better choices and changing habits that lead to sedentary lifestyles," Brauneisen said.

The programs were constructed to battle nutrition problems found among school children including childhood obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, among others.

"These nutritional maladies are on the rise mainly due to the fact that children are not moving enough and are eating the wrong foods," LePage said. "It is our job as educators to set a positive example for our future. What better way to get started than with some fun programs which will increase the morale of the campus in a fun, safe and healthy way!"

In addition to the two student programs, the school will also offer Family Fitness Friday activities, which will give teachers and parents the opportunity to engage in physical activities with students before the school day begins.

Through sponsorship during the school's read-a-thon, readers raised a total of $5,000 for the track, an amount that was met by the Castaic Education Foundation.

But funding didn't stop there.

Through the efforts of the Northlake Hills Parent-Teacher Association, further fundraising was conducted to benefit the project's completion.

"I would like to see students more active, especially those who don't play sports," said Northlake Hills PTA President Annette Heinrich. "Teaching them to make the right choices for their bodies and minds is so important."

Heinrich added, "The smiles on the kids' faces when they first ran the track were priceless. Fitness can be exciting and will give students a burst of energy to learn and grow."

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