Grades four through six with their Walking Club awards PHOTO: KELLEY STANAGE/SPRING GROVE HERALD
Grades four through six with their Walking Club awards PHOTO: KELLEY STANAGE/SPRING GROVE HERALD

Students in the Walking Club at Spring Grove Elementary School far surpassed their goal of walking to the Galapagos Islands, or 3,000 miles, collectively. By the end of their journey, students had walked a total of 4,853 miles at school during lunchtime. Adding in the miles they logged at home, they walked a total of 9,479 miles.

At their awards party on Friday, students received their awards: certificates and T-shirts provided by sponsors: Gundersen Spring Grove Clinic, Spring Grove Athletic Boosters, and Shooting Star Native Seeds.

Robin Bartell, of Robin Bartell Designs and Yah Sure You Betcha Shoppe produced the graphics for the shirts. She integrated artwork students had created into the design. Artwork from Mrs. Eiken's fifth grade students depicted a drawing of the globe, kids holding hands, duck feet, and gym shoes, with the words, "Walk to the equator!"

According to Principal Nancy Gulbranson, second grade Teacher Deb Sullivan has been "instrumental in organizing and doing all of the behind the scenes work" to make the club possible. Sullivan organized the program, kept track of miles walked by all students and provided inspiration and encouragement. For example, when students' collective miles placed them in the Pacific Ocean, she gave out lifesavers, saying, "Kids, you're in the middle of the water. Keep swimming!"

When asked if teachers had noticed increased focus in the classroom as a result of their walking, Gulbranson said, "I would venture to guess 'yes', but I don't have the data to support it." She went on to say, "We push physical education here. Students have 30 minutes of physical education a day with a licensed physical education teacher and 30 minutes of recess every day. So, that meets the guidelines for physical activity for youth of 60 minutes a day. And [with the walking club] we are adding 10 minutes a day." She did say that when the Walking Club ended, staff noticed that students were "more antsy and fidgety" during the time they would have been walking.

Twenty-five students in fourth through sixth grades and eighty-six students in kindergarten through third grades participated in the club.

Students' lunchtime is 30 minutes. Prior to the introduction of Walking Club, they typically took about 15 minutes to eat, leaving 15 minutes of idle time. Walking Club allowed them to stretch their legs and be active for another 10 or 15 minutes during the middle of the day.

Gulbranson also noted that without volunteers, the program would not have been possible. Gulbranson herself, along with Superintendent Rachael Udstuen and teacher Deb Sullivan, each took time out of their busy administrative and teaching schedules one day a week to walk with students in the gym.

Retired Teacher Joan Lewis, an avid walker who can be seen walking around Spring Grove through rain or shine, came into the office and said, "Can I help? I'll walk with the kids." Gulbranson said her help was greatly appreciated, because, "being a retired teacher, she knew how to work with kids."

Sullivan said her students understand that they are learning how to be healthy. She said, "They talk about how lucky they are at Spring Grove that they get to have gym every day. Where I taught before, they only had gym three times a week." She added, "This is just one more thing promoting health at Spring Grove Schools."

This year was the first year for the Walking Club. Sullivan hopes to get more participation in upper grades next year.

Another way to think about the Walking Club is how much they accomplished by doing it together: If one man were to set a goal of walking 9,000 miles, he would have to walk eight hours a day, seven days a week, for an entire year. Spring Grove students accomplished the same goal in only 10 or 15 minutes a day, three to five days a week in merely six months.

As Henry Ford said, "If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself."