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New Running Club gets students up and moving

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If this keeps up, there's going to be a lot of super-smart kids coming out of Meadowview Elementary School.

And they'll be pretty fit and trim, for that matter.

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MVES has a new club for students in grades 1-5. It's called the Running Club, and its membership requirements are simple: just run.

So they do. Every day, about 300 of the school's students take to the small track behind the school. The first- and second graders run for a minimum of half a mile. The kids in third through fifth grade run a minimum of a mile.

They do it during recess, basically doing a lap or two of walking or running after lunch. And they seem to be enjoying themselves.

The Running Club is the brainchild of physical education teacher Joe McCarthy. It bothered him to see kids on the playground, not really playing. They weren't exercising. They weren't spending some of that excess energy kids seem to have. McCarthy saw lots of kids just sitting with their friends. McCarthy wanted to see more activity.

He came up with a plan. He sought donations of small prizes -- stickers, pencils and other little gadgets -- from the school's Parent Teacher Partnership and outside sources. He drew up charts to mark milestones for the students.

And then, he issued the challenge to see how much students could run.

Members of the Running Club put their names on the charts, which are posted outside the school office. Every time the students hit one of the milestones on McCarthy's chart, they get stickers to mark off their progress -- and maybe show off to their friends and classmates. When they reach significant markers, they get one of the little prizes McCarthy has accumulated in his office.

"I've been overwhelmed by the number of participants," he said.

With that kind of participation, there's no doubt MVES kids are getting their exercise. But the benefits aren't just physical, McCarthy said.

"Anytime you're active, it creates brain cells," he said. "Every time you move, your grades go up in the classroom because it helps you focus more."

The idea seems to be catching on. This is the first year McCarthy has held the Running Club, but word of its success has already spread. In early November, he was invited to set up a booth at the Healthy Schools Conference at the University of Minnesota, and even talk about his new project. He's even had a few teachers from other districts contact him for information on how to start one.

McCarthy thinks the Running Club is such a big hit because there are so many benefits for the kids. And that's saying a lot in this technological world, where kids are often glued to a computer screen or the extent of their exercise comes by playing a video game.

"A lot of kids are creating habits of sitting, which leads to inactivity, which leads to a higher weight," McCarthy said. "I'm trying to create habits of being active. If I can hook them now, they're more likely to live an active lifestyle in the future."

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Michelle Leonard
Michelle Leonard started covering the Farmington community in June, 1994. Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the Farmington American Legion Auxiliary Unit 189, and acts as the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 
(651) 460-6606
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