Walking has many benefits at Ridge Road School
Ridge Road Elementary School fourth and fifth graders have eagerly taken to a new form of school exercise. The students are dominating the state leader board in miles walked for Walk It Bike It to School Connecticut, part of the federal Safe Routes to School program.
Walk It Bike It to School Connecticut’s objective is to “promote a healthy lifestyle by motivating children to walk and bike to school,” according to walkitbikeitct.org. However, as there are few sidewalks around Ridge Road, and the nearby roads are narrow, winding, thickly populated and heavily forested, the school has taken advantage of a program clause that allows students to accrue miles walked within school.
“I’ve measured out all the hallways,” said Ridge Road physical education teacher Marc Stonaha. “And the students have gone nuts with it.”
Stonaha started the program in Ridge Road in October. Since then, he said, approximately 150 participating students from seven classrooms have totaled over 3,000 miles walked within the school’s hallways.
Stonaha said that a full lap of the school’s hallways is approximately 300 meters, or about a quarter of a mile.
The students can also add to their mileage by walking on the playground’s blacktop. “I’ve measured every conceivable place you could walk inside or outside the building,” Stonaha said.
The students walk before lunch, as part of their recess, with their entire classrooms. “The teachers have really taken ownership of it,” Stonaha said. “That helps.”
Ridge Road principal Kathleen Peters-Durrigan praised Stonaha for achieving such success with the program. She appreciated that the physical education teacher produced a program that would allow the school’s students to focus at least a small part of their day specifically on exercise.
“The students really have the opportunity to do something about exercise,” she said. “It helps them relax a little bit. They’ve been working really hard in the classrooms.”
“Some teachers are already reporting improvements in some of the children,” Peters-Durrigan said. “They’ve said that some children are not breathing as heavily at the ends of their walks.”
Peters-Durrigan said that the exercise could also benefit the students’ education.
“Students who have aerobic breaks tend to be able to concentrate better when they return to their academics,” Peters-Durrigan said. “It’s part of our overall wellness endeavor.”
Stonaha also believed that program, which will run through April 16, is having an immensely positive impact on the students’ health.
“I was talking to a teacher the other day, and they said at first some of their students would be tired after one or two laps,” Stonaha said. “Now, the students do not get tired until after four or five laps. Walking has great cardiovascular benefits.”
The students can choose how much they walk. “Each classroom chooses how much or how little it wants to participate,” Stonaha said. “It varies day to day based on the teacher’s schedule.”
“Some classrooms do a quarter of a mile per day, others do a whole mile a day,” Stonaha added. “They really seem to be having fun with this.”
The students have added a competitive edge to it, too, as they rack up the mileage. “The fact that they can compete with other classrooms is nice,” Stonaha said.
The classrooms are not only in competition with other Ridge Road rooms – they are also up against all the other participating classrooms in the state.
“I posted on the school’s bulletin board the top 10 classrooms from the state,” Stonaha said. “We had seven classrooms in the top 10. Mr. Anino’s class was winning the state.”
“You’ve got goal-setting for the competition,” Stonaha added.
Recently, Anino’s class has been surpassed by a Hartford classroom. However, it would not be a surprise should “Anino’s Awe-Inspiring 4’s,” as the students named their walking team, overtake their capital competition.
“They like the walking,” Anino said. “They watch the clock – they want to walk. They’ve taken off with it.”
Anino was more impressed by what the program was accomplishing for the students.
“It’s about their motivation as a class,” he said. “This isn’t just something they’re talking about, but actually starting it. They always make the decision as a class to walk.”
“They’re continuing to build community,” Anino continued. “They do it together. That’s the important part. I see a lot of kids walk together in groups, boys and girls. It’s a social thing, too. It isn’t just about exercise. It’s about getting to know one another. Some of them are finding out that they have more in common than if they just sat in class together.”
Walk It Bike It to School Connecticut
1) Ms. Taylor, 1227 miles - Hartford
2) Annino's Awe-inspiring 4's (fourth grade), 1084 miles - North Haven
3) Room 246, 805 - Hartford
4) Pavkov's Priceless 4/5's (fourth and fifth graders) 743 - North Haven
5) Mrs. Nolan's 4th Graders 664 - Portland
6) Tortora's Tremendous 5's (fifth graders) 631 - North Haven
7) Fletcher's First Rate 4/5's (fourth and fifth graders) 453 - North Haven
8) Grillo's Glorious 5's (fifth graders) 412 - North Haven
9) Kirby's Commendable 4's (fourth graders) 327 - North Haven
10) Corcoran's Chill 5's (fifth graders) 295 - North Haven