Bottenfield club helps kids keep moving

Bottenfield club helps kids keep moving

CHAMPAIGN – Justin Lumetta can rattle off his stats just like a professional athlete.

Ask him how his running is going, and he'll tell you the number of laps he can get in on the playground during recess and how that's improved since last year. He'll tell you how many plastic feet he's earned for his miles, and how he's competing with a classmate who has a few more than he does.

Justin, a fourth-grader at Bottenfield Elementary School, and the other students at the school are part of the Bottenfield Mileage Club. Students keep track of how far they run and earn a plastic foot to wear on a chain around their necks for every 5 miles they run.

Many of the school's students and teachers will walk or run in the Arthritis Foundation's Jingle Bell Run Sunday afternoon at Centennial Park.

The mileage club was created by Bottenfield PE teacher Wendy Huckstadt last year, with the help of a $1,000 grant from the National PTA. The grant bought a line marker to measure out a 1/4-mile lap on the sidewalk and a 1/8-mile lap on the grass on the school's playground. It also bought cards for the children to keep track of their miles, and the chains and plastic feet that are their rewards.

The club is being supported by the school's PTA this year.

"It's my step in the fight against obesity and in getting everybody moving, not just in PE, but also during the day," Huckstadt said. "How can you move during the day? That's been the push of the mileage club, to extend it from PE class to their day and their home life and develop an exercise attitude.

"Unfortunately, we have our fair share of kids whose lifestyles need a little boost," she said.

The PTA is paying for Bottenfield students to enter the Jingle Bell Run, and students are collecting change in "jingle jars" in their classrooms to donate to the Arthritis Foundation. They did so last year too, and raised almost $3,000.

Huckstadt's students run on their "track" every day at the start of their PE classes, weather permitting, and they can run during recess if they want, as Justin does. They can also keep track of miles run at home, and parents and teachers can participate in the club.

Huckstadt said some parents walk on the playground while they are waiting to pick up their kids, and teachers do so as well. Bottenfield Librarian Patricia Plaut walks regularly around Hessel Park, and she has a chain filled with the feet she's earned.

"We're role models, and for us to walk around with our feet encourages them," Plaut said.

The students sometimes ask to run more during PE class, Huckstadt said, especially if they are close to earning another foot.

"The enthusiasm is extremely high. I'm surprised and pleased. It's working," Huckstadt said.

"Kids will come and tell me, 'I ran over the weekend,'" she continued. "I just had two kids tell me they ran in the Turkey Trot."

Matthew Dawkins, a fifth-grade student, has already tripled the number of feet he earned last year. He earned just one last year, but has three so far this year.

"Last year I wasn't really working on it that much. This year I am," he said, saying he's motivated because he wants to earn more feet.

Taylor Lovett, also a fifth-grader, likes to run because she does it with her friends.

Their classmate, Zsayla Brummett, just likes how running feels.

"I like how, when I run, I get a lot of wind (in my face)," she said. "It feels good, and I get a little bit of energy up."

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