They run. They walk. They groan as the minutes go by and ask, “How much more time?”
“Just five more minutes,” says P.E. teacher Donna Moore, then she asks, “How many laps have you done?”
The kids hold up fingers and call out how many laps they have completed. “Way to go guys,” Moore says. “Will you get your family out after eating that big meal to walk?”
“Yeah!” the Julia Randall Elementary (JRE) fourth-grade students yell as they enthusiastically take off for their last laps.
Moore smiles in triumph. She and her fellow P.E. teachers hoped for that answer. They set up the annual Turkey Trot for Julia Randall Elementary students to think about healthy choices during the Thanksgiving holiday.
“We teach that physical activities are important during Thanksgiving,” said Moore.
“We also talked about nutrition and what and how much they’re eating.”
Moore said the Fit Kid Council sponsors the event. Each JRE grade comes out decorated with hats made to look like turkeys to run or walk around the Green Valley Park area for 45 minutes.
The Fit Kid Council — comprised of students concerned about the health of fellow classmates, teachers, parents and the community — come together, as the student council does, to focus on exercise and health issues.
Fourth-grade student Carlie Ingram sits on the Fit Kid Council. She said the group talked about helping people make better choices for Thanksgiving.
“We said to the kids, ‘If you just ate a lot, go out to walk and lose weight,” she said.
The Fit Kid Council also meets with the school food service people to brainstorm ideas on how to make fruits and veggies more appetizing for kids.
“I told them I like fresh carrots dipped in ranch,” said Carlie.
Moore said the physical education the P.E. department has brought to the school and community has made a difference. Her calculations show that the school population has lost fat based on their body mass index (BMI). The BMI dropped by .5, according to the estimates.
“That’s huge,” said Moore.
The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion defines BMI as “a number calculated from a person’s weight and height. BMI provides a reliable indicator of body fitness for most people and is used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems.”
Most students in the Payson school population fall within national averages of 30 percent for obesity and overweight issues, Moore said. But events such as the Turkey Trot hope to change how Payson students approach nutrition and exercise issues.
As the students came in to complete their 45 minutes, Moore asked them to remember how many laps they did. Moore plans on a competition amongst the classes. Some students brought their parents along and Moore told them they could add their parents’ totals to the class total.
For retired teacher and now regular substitute Carmelita Locke, getting the parents involved in this annual tradition makes all the difference.
“I love (the Turkey Trot) because it’s family friendly,” Locke said as she gathered her flock of third-graders, each wearing a turkey-themed hat, to return to the classroom. “Everybody is included.”