On any given day during recess, Westfield elementary students might be found engaged in energetic games, gleefully bouncing balls, or just generally scampering about. But look closely and you’ll also spy a determined group of youngsters running the roughly quarter mile perimeter of an elementary field over and over again.
Welcome to the Recess Runners’ Club, sometimes called the Mileage Club, in Westfield Public Schools. Here runners are given a popsicle stick or colorful plastic stick for every lap they walk or run until they reach a mile, at which point they turn in their sticks for a plastic charm, often in the shape of a foot. The charms accumulate on a chain necklace provided to the runner as each milestone is reached over time.
Parent volunteers oversee the runner clubs, sometimes with 5th grade student organizers and helpers.
“The 1st graders are really enthusiastic,” says Tamaques 5th grader Hope Walsh who is among five student organizers of the Mileage Club, along with parent advisors Wendy Baum and Susan Reich. “They all have necklaces with lots of charms.”
Yet one charm or many, organizers say it is more about the effort each participant puts into the running club, the health benefits, and the feeling of a job well done.
“They can see their progress at any time. We have a tracking system that is visual,” says Debi Kapuscinski, one of the parent organizers of the Washington School Recess Runners’ Club (RRC). “Last year we had more than 200 runners and that number has been increasing year after year.”
The running clubs generally meet once or twice a week, weather permitting in the fall and/or the spring.