How can you amplify the success of your school wellness program? Partner it with another winner! Cascade Christian School in Frederickson, WA, is a shining example of how the parallel goals of 100 Mile Club, a school-based walk/run program, and Fuel Up to Play 60, an in-school physical activity and nutrition program, were met – by collaboration of the programs’ leaders.
Inspiring Quality Activity with the 100 Mile Club
Stephanie Kelso, a former teacher aide and recess duty teacher, who now works in the office at Cascade, has a passion for fitness. A triathlete and former competitive swimmer, Stephanie knows firsthand the importance of physical activity. In January 2012, she volunteered to head up 100 Mile Club at Cascade – a program that presents elementary school students with a straightforward challenge: run, jog or walk 100 miles over the course of the school year. It’s a big mark to hit but students of all abilities jump at the chance to score miles during designated running times before or after school, during recess and at sanctioned community events, such as local road races and family nights. Wildly popular with students and educators alike, the 100 Mile Club is in 200 schools nationwide and was one of two programs named a National Winner in the 2012 Active Schools Acceleration Project Physical Activity Innovation Competition.
When Stephanie joined 100 Mile Club in 2012, the program had yet to catch fire at Cascade. Only eight students were enrolled. The program needed a champion, a motivated leader to ignite students’ excitement. Stephanie accepted the challenge. As of March 2013, 42 Cascade students are running toward their personal fitness goals, with new students jumping on board each week.
Creating Active Environments with Fuel Up to Play 60
Stephanie credits the increased 100 Mile Club enrollment in large part to Cascade’s Fuel Up to Play 60 program. Fuel Up to Play 60 is a program founded by the National Dairy Council and the NFL, in collaboration with the USDA, that empowers students to take charge of making changes in their school wellness environment by fueling up with nutrient-rich foods and being active for 60 minutes or more a day. A Fuel Up to Play 60 student team at Cascade is led by Stephanie’s “sidekick,” Fuel Up to Play 60 Program Advisor Amanda Griffiths. Realizing how well the programs complement each other, the adult leaders meet twice a week to connect for success.
One of the ways students use the Fuel Up to Play 60 program to boost activity is by engaging peers in a variety of Physical Activity “Plays” from the Fuel Up to Play 60 Playbook, a collection of idea starters for sustainable in-school changes. At Cascade these include a pre-class run and after-school fitness activities. The student team is also planning Cascade’s annual end-of-year field day. Last year, students led the day’s activities and will do so again this year.
As an inclusive, non-competitive opportunity to get quality physical activity, 100 Mile Club offers Cascade students a ready way to contribute toward the 60-minute-a-day goal for physical activity that is encouraged by Fuel Up to Play 60. The importance of daily activity was reinforced by a visit from Seattle Seahawks’ Defensive Back Roy Lewis last year. He addressed the students about the conditioning he requires to be able to play football and the importance of fueling up on nutritious foods. After Lewis’s visit, both Fuel Up to Play 60 gained and the 100 Mile Club gained more momentum at the school.
Students Go Above and Beyond
Cascade students have enthusiastically taken to the leadership opportunities presented by Fuel Up to Play 60 to improve their school’s wellness environment. Older students began mentoring – and motivating – younger students to also get involved in the 100 Mile Club. They formed a runners’ group to be part of the Tacoma Children’s Marathon, which took place last May, and they are planning to do it again this year. The Tacoma Children’s Marathon gives kids the opportunity to “run” an incremental marathon. During the months leading up to the marathon, students are active at school and at home to accumulate the 26.2 marathon miles, which they can do by running or completing other activities – such as jumping rope and mowing the lawn. At the adult marathon, they complete their final mile and cross the finish line. Stephanie notes that in addition to the 100 Mile Club participants, the Fuel Up to Play 60 students are now signing up for the marathon as well.
Parents Join the Fun
Stephanie notes that the 100 Mile Club is a great way for students and adults to connect, and during the Club’s twice-a-week meetings, she runs alongside her students. Both younger and older students enjoy the opportunity to interact with other grade levels. The younger students are motivated by the older student role models and the older students informally step into mentor roles to motivate and encourage their younger peers.
Even parents are becoming involved in the active environment at Cascade. Stephanie holds a special “themed” walk once a month for the 100 Mile Club members to work toward their miles, and she invites students’ families. The theme of March’s walk was St. Patrick’s Day, and students named the walk the “Shamrock Shuffle,” which was attended by over half of the students’ parents. Parents are also invited to attend a weekly all-school assembly, where Stephanie gives out awards to her students for reaching milestones in the 100 Mile Club, and participants celebrate the implementation of Fuel Up to Play 60 “Plays” and student achievement by awarding certificates.
A highlight of last school year was when a sixth-grade student was awarded an opportunity by the Washington Dairy Council to compete against another student in a Seattle Seahawks pre-game show. The student was chosen for this honor due to his involvement with a Fuel Up to Play 60 winning Challenge – a fun activity that gives students the opportunity to work as a team and share how they get active or make nutritious food choices. The sixth grader took part in the creation of a video that showcased the school’s 100 Mile Club and Fuel Up to Play 60 programs, and students were interviewed about how they get – and stay – active. The student’s family was thrilled about the opportunity to attend the Seahawks event, and Stephanie notes it was amazing to see the student representing the school, the 100 Mile Club and Fuel Up to Play 60. She says, “He had a ball!”
Look out for more student success at Cascade next year. Students are already exceeding expectations. Stephanie has begun rewarding students who achieve 125 and 150 miles in the 100 Mile Club, and students are enthusiastically working on choosing “Plays” from Fuel Up to Play 60’s online Playbook for the upcoming annual Cascade Field Day. And interest in the kids’ Tacoma Marathon is far more than anticipated. The two wellness programs have proven to be a win-win combination, and when it comes to success in school wellness and building student leadership and engagement, Stephanie Kelso says, “The more the merrier!”
ChildObesity180’s Active Schools Acceleration Project is providing $1,000 grants to schools that want to implement the 100 Mile Club. To learn more, click here.
Funds for Fuel Up to Play 60 are available to schools that want to make healthy eating and physical activity improvements. To learn more, click here.