As promised . . . with a fair night's sleep, I now bring you a run-down (no pun intended!) of yesterday's visit:
I visited with 2 groups of 4th & 5th graders yesterday at Lewis & Clark Elementary School in Wenatchee, WA. I was amazed to see that the school was established in the 1800s. No worries, it has had PLENTY of updates and is a lovely place for kids to spend their days learning. Another impressive aspect of the school is that it is bilingual. The kids are truly immersed in both English and Spanish, with days designated as "English Learning" or "Spanish Learning". I was there on a Spanish day and YES, as I passed through the halls, I did hear that the students were being instructed in Spanish. It was fantastic! I am not a fluent Spanish speaker, so I was thankful that the students' library time (during which I was the guest) yesterday was an English speaking time. Whew!
As a former educator, I know how important it is for students' experiences to be as interactive as possible. I spent just 30 minutes with each class, but filled it with what I hope are memorable events. First I talked about why I wrote the book and how running became something I embrace instead of how I intitially shied away from it. Then I read the book (you could have heard a pin drop in there - SERIOUSLY, these kids were very attentive!) and shared some "insider secrets" behind the illustrations. After a few amazing questions from the students (for example: "When you share your writing with others and they tell you that they don't like a part of it, what do you do? How does it make you feel?" - This out of the mouth of a 4th grader!!!) I took them outside for a run with me.
I hope you've had a chance to visit the KidsRunning.com site that Carol Goodrow maintains. It is a great resource for parents/teachers/mentors who are introducting youth to our favorite sport. I'm really impressed by the selection of running games she has for people to use and have found myself sharing it with people who ask ME how they might engage their children in running in a fun, playful way.
For my visit yesterday, I combined 2 of the running games on KidsRunning.com to create one that I thought would be better received by "older" kids. I love the element of choice that the Butterfly Training provides kids and the variety of speeds the kids try out with the Triangle Training, so I combined them to create the Mountain Training (appropriate out here with our numerous mountains!). I was my intention for the Mountain option to help the older kids learn that they can run different speeds and identify how the various paces make them feel - and how recovery time is helpful, too! And guess what? That's JUST what happened.
Here's how the mountains look:
I drew something similar to Carol's butterfly, but instead of wings, I drew two non-symmetrical triangles to represent mountains (the lack of symmetry also helps kids avoid comparing how fast the kids on the "other mountain" are going). At the "peak" at each mountain, I have the kids do 10 jumping jacks (my time with the kids is limited, so I won't have a chance to do a song or anything more complicated like is suggested with the Triangle Training - but that's a super option for an after-school or summer running club to incorporate!). For the left-hand mountain, the kids "hike" (walk) to the peak and then jog down the other side. The right-hand mountain offers the kids the chance to run to the top and jog down. The space between the mountains is the Valley Sprint for the kids to run ALL OUT!
The first class I spoke and ran with was a group of 5th graders. When they first arrived to meet me in the library, I swear they were all half asleep. It WAS just 8:30, afterall! They perked up a bit as I read and were thrilled for the opportunity to go outside (even though it was super windy). I provided them all with a "map" that showed the kids which "mountain" was the hiking moutain and the running mountain and where they'd be doing their jumping jacks. I had an adult posted at each jumping jack cone to serve as cheerleaders (my mom was along for the trip, afterall, she IS my business partner, and she joined the kids for jumping jacks at one of the cones - GO MOM!). One of the adults was the woman who made my visit possible. She paid for the experience with her husband's memorial fund, which was dedicated to helping youth lead active lives. AND, though her grand-daughter is a second grade student at the school, she was able to have her join the first class to meet me and do the run (she loved it, too!).
After about 10 minutes of the Mountain Training course (during which their librarian joined in the run - how great is THAT?!), we gathered for some debreifing and conversation. We talked about what they like to read, what things they write about, and how the run made them feel. At this point they were all wide awake, they had smiles on their faces, and even though some of the students were still catching their breath, they all agreed that the run felt GREAT. They also shared that having the opportunity to take a walk break made the run more fun and helped them feel successful.
"Can we do it AGAIN?" one boy asked.
I was happy that we had a few minutes, so they all sprinted on down the Valley to run 3 more "laps of their choice" before heading back into the school. What FUN! These kids CHOSE to run more and did it with exuberance and laughter. That was not MY elementary school running experience - and for that I'm grateful. That was my goal!
The visit with the 4th grade class was similar. The kids were tired when they arrived, but full of smiles and energy by the time they had to return to their class. They were really proud of themselves for taking part in the run and there wasn't a single person who asked if they could sit out and watch. It was really very impowering.
I could probably go on and on and on . . . but I'll stop here. Just know that it was a powerful day and it had such a great reaction from the newspaper folks that were there (I'm still having a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that I'm a "celebrity" of sorts) and the kids/teachers/etc. that there's a strong possibility that they'll be bringing me back to the school for a FULL day so I can visit with all of their classes next year. WOW!
You can read more about the other presentations I've developed for author visits on our Balanced Steps website. We're also in the process of finalizing the descriptions of the hands-on teacher workshops we offer . . . there is NEVER a dull moment in this business. And it is quite rewarding.
**Edit: You can read the article (and see photos of the kids and me in ACTION!) in the Wenatchee World here. I'm pretty excited to have made the Wenatchee World Home Page for the day!