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Earl students take a step toward physical fitness
Over 250 Dennis Earl Elementary students walk for 30 minutes every Tuesday and Thursday morning before school as part of the school’s new Walking Club. - photo by MAEGAN MARTENS / The Journal
Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, passersby can see Dennis Earl Elementary students working on their fitness by walking about a mile before class starts. Their inspiration: Colored feet charms to add to their stylish necklaces.
The newly started Walking Club at Earl Elementary begun Nov. 3 and has been a huge success with over 250 students walking every Tuesday and Thursday.
“I like it and it’s fun,” said second grader Cole Elam, while working on his third mile Tuesday morning. “More people can be active and we get our energy out.”
For each mile a student walks, they get a foot to put on their necklace, said Tami Truax, Earl Elementary principal. It takes eight laps to complete one mile on their track.
The morning walk starts at 7:45 a.m. with parents standing at the finish line to mark off each student’s finished lap. When they get eight marks on their card, they get a foot for their necklace on Foot Friday, when they pass out the fitness rewards.
As inspiration on Tuesday morning, Truax sang “these boots are made for walking” when students passed through the card-marking gates.
The Walking Club started with the help of two mothers who are active runners and wanted to spread the benefits of physical fitness, said Rhonda Willson, one of the mothers who started the club. They modeled Earl’s club after Julien Elementary’s walking program.  
“We wanted something to occupy kids in a positive way,” Willson said.
Their next step is to hopefully put up a map to show the distance the students have walked together across the United States, said Johanna Biondi, the other mother who started the club.
Parents and teachers have been very supportive of the students walking, Willson said.
“If we asked our own kids to walk they wouldn’t, but at school they will,” said Nancy Marko, parent of fourth grader at Earl Elementary.
The teachers have even noticed a difference in the attention and focus the students put into their academics, Willson said.
“The teachers feel it has made a difference in their classrooms,” she said.
The students are more focused because they get their “little wiggles” out in the morning, Truax said.
She said she feels like it is an equalizer for the students to walk together.
“I like walking around and I get to talk to all my friends,” said Donovan Gilgert, a sixth grader working on his 18 mile. “It is fun and you get exercise.”
When Tuesday’s walking club came to an end at 8:15 a.m., most students said “aww man” or “we can’t walk more?” while they slowly dragged their feet to class.   
“It is so fun to watch the kids set goals whether it is in the classroom with academics or out here with physical fitness,” Truax said.
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.