Last summer, a team of school enrichment leaders, our school principal and me—our school’s PTA president—were brainstorming ideas how we should use the National PTA Healthy Lifestyles: Energy Balance 101 grant we received for the 2013-2014 school year. We knew they we wanted to challenge our students to exercise regularly with their families, and so we developed the idea of a “Walk Around the World Challenge” where families were challenged to exercise weekly (by walking, dancing, swimming, running, etc.) and then logging the distance. The goal was to reach 24,900 miles – the distance around the Earth. Our dilemma was how to have families track their exercise.
While checking out the National PTA site I found information on “Fire Up Your Feet” , a program launched in partnership between National PTA, Safe Routes to School and Kaiser Permanente as part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Active Schools program. Fire Up Your Feet gives families, students and schools tools to create fun, active lifestyles that inspire our children and their families and schools to be healthy and physically active by walking before, during and after school. Available to any elementary and middle school nationally, Fire Up Your Feet offers an online activity tracker. This was the perfect tool for us to keep up with the miles walked!
Safe Routes to School staff worked with us on setting up the program and responded quickly with any technical difficulties that parents encountered. We put a direct link to the website on our weekly e-newsletter, website, Facebook page and flyers. Parents were able to register their family in 3 easy clicks and start logging in the miles at no cost to the PTA. As families would sign up, we would send a pedometer home with each student. We distributed more than 300 pedometers using the Healthy Lifestyles funds. PTA officers decorated a bulletin board in the cafeteria with a world map for the students to track their progress. We would send updates in our newsletters and Facebook pages. We also sent out information about community running events, such as the Rocket City Kids Marathon and local fun run events.
I’m sorry to say, we didn’t make it all the way around the world. We did make the radius though! We ended our challenge with a Family Fitness Night at the local YMCA. Families had free admission to enjoy swimming, Zumba classes, racquetball, basketball and an indoor playground. We served recipes from the Together Counts™ recipe list.
Looking back on the program, the PTA Executive Board needed to find a volunteer to support the program. We tried to cover it as a board and didn’t devote enough time to promoting the challenge. We should have also included a classroom incentive for the classes that logged in the most miles. If we had done a better job of marketing, even having a walk/run night monthly at our school’s track, we would have logged in more miles. Another thought after the fact was to add some cultural background information on the bulletin board about the countries we had “walked” to each month, such as information on Caracas, Venezuela. There are so many ideas!
This is a very easy and low cost program to implement. Our only expense was the pedometers, which most families can use apps on their phones or iPods for counting steps. There are so many easy and cheap things that local PTA’s can do to promote healthy lifestyles, the first step is getting a team together to create ideas that work for your school.
Sonja Griffith currently resides in Madison, AL with her husband and two children. She serves on the Alabama PTA Board of Directors and is also the Rainbow Elementary PTA President, which received a 2013 Healthy Lifestyles: Energy Balance 101 grant and was recognized as a 2014 National PTA School of Excellence. Sonja is the former Madison City Council of PTA’s President, served as PTA President at Discovery Middle School, and is a former Spanish and ELL teacher.