We began a consistent run/walk program at Pierce Park Elementary a little over a year ago, which we call Panther Pacers. The program is funded through our Fuel Up to Play 60 grant. Students can elect to run/walk laps during their lunch recess every Tuesday and Thursday. Laps are tracked monthly and prizes given out when students reach certain milestones. Additionally, we have started incentivizing the students who participate with other rewards like the Golden Shoe Award (a golden shoe “trophy” that displays the names of the top Panther Pacers from K-3rd grade and 4th-6th grade each month), as well as Champion’s Lunches (the top Panther Pacer from every grade plus a wildcard gets to eat lunch with a local champion - Boise State University Football Players, State Track Champions, etc. - once per quarter). The Panther Pacers program has been a success, with increased participation nearly every month. One of our standouts in Pacers is 6th grader Mehki. He has participated in the program nearly every single Tuesday and Thursday since it started. He is consistently a top Pacer for his grade, achieving the most laps in his grade month after month. Because of his success in Pacers, he has started participating in competitive races. Mehki competed in his first duathlon this year, finishing the run in 1st place, and was narrowly edged out during the bike portion to finish 2nd overall. This spring, Mekhi is participating in track at Pierce Park. The first track meet was yesterday, Mekhi’s first ever. I am proud to say he came in first in the mile at the meet! In fact, Pierce Park dominated in nearly all of the distance races! It is no coincidence that the students who are competing at such a high level in track are also consistent Panther Pacers. The program has provided a platform for students to build their health and physical fitness. Pacers has instilled strength and confidence in Mekhi and the others that consistently participate. The foundation of movement and physical activity that Pacers provides will help these kids grow into healthy, confident and successful individuals.
How do you plan to make this Play last during the school year and beyond?
Panther Pacers provides students with incentives for reaching certain milestones. Additionally, incentives like the Golden Shoe Award, Champion’s Lunches, and a fun field trip to a bowling alley at the end of school motivate students to continue to work hard and be competitive. This year we started organizing Panther Pacer teams to participate in community 5K races, outside of the school day, and one race is slated for this summer after school is out.
What improvements have you seen at your school?
The principal is a huge supporter of the program because he sees a huge benefit in reduced behavioral problems on the playground and in the classroom. The track meet is another example of success stemming from the program. Additionally, participation in Pacers and miles run/walked has steadily increased nearly every month of the program.