Wheeler Avenue School students are committing themselves to living healthy. More than half of the school’s nearly 600 children are taking part in the Mileage Club, a walking group during recess.
Phys. ed. teacher Janet Miller oversees the Mileage Club. There are no meetings or group walks. Simply, students walk at their own leisure.
Each child who participates in the Mileage Club gets a card. They get a hole punched in the card for each 1/8-mile they complete. When they fill up one card, they’ve complete 20 laps, or 2.5 miles. Then they get a new card in a different color. Miller has painted a start line, stop line and footsteps around the blacktop to guide the walkers.
Miller said the club is part of Valley Stream District 13’s commitment to wellness and health education. She said the goal is to teach children that regular exercise is important and develop lifelong routines. “I think they’re developing some good habits,” she said, “and they see it as fun to do. They’re exercising and they don’t even know it.”
Students can walk, run or jog the course, as long as they are staying active. She said that most students who participate will do a few laps, then go off and play other activities with their friends.
Some children do it once or twice a week, others do it every day. One regular is Brandon Lee, who walked the most miles of any student at Wheeler Avenue School last year — 60 — and is on pace to lead the pack again this year.
“I want to beat last year,” said Brandon, a fourth-grader who typically walks five to seven laps each day. “That’s what I’m looking forward to. I really enjoy it.”
Brandon, who also plays tennis, said the walking club is important because it gives him a chance to stay in shape and keep his legs strong.
Fourth-grader Brandon Tullo said he likes to run a few laps each day. “It makes my heart healthy,” he said.
Miller said that several students set personal goals for Mileage Club. Also, she keeps tracks of how many miles each grade has walked, and it has become a competition to see which grade can travel the farthest. She said that club is most popular among second-, third- and fourth-graders.
Last year, children in the school walked more than 1,000 miles, enough to get to Colorado, and Miller hopes they can exceed that this year. She also gives students credit for any charity walks they participate in outside of school. “I try to support what they do out in the community,” she said.
In addition to the Mileage Club, Miller plans to soon start up a Fitness Club for students in grades 4-6. There is fitness equipment next to the playground, designed to prepare students for the Presidential Fitness Challenge. Each piece of equipment shows the children what to do, and what muscles it works on. There is a tai chi wheel for resistance training, crunch and leg lift station, plyometrics step machine to improve leg strength and cardiovascular health, pull-up and dip bar, and jump and touch to measure vertical leap.