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The Hesston Record
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Hesston, KS 67062
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September 7, 2017 The Hesston RecordSeptember 7, 2017 The Hesston Record

Elementary School Kids Have ‘Swagger’ During Recess

Posted 3/23/2017

Hesston Record Staff

SWAG (Swather Walkers Achieving Greatness) is a short term walking program that is now in it's second spring at Hesston Elementary.  It is a walking program with rewards that provides students another choice for getting active at recess. 

 A walking program had been a dream at the elementary school for some time but the financial aspect of putting it all together always held us back. 

Thanks to a grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Hesston Community Foundation, we were able to get the supplies we needed last year to kick this program off. It proved to be a huge success and when we told the kids that we were bringing it back this spring the announcement was met with loud cheers. 

We were fortunate this year to get a generous donation from Catalyst Safety and a grant from the Hesston Community Foundation that allowed us to fund needed supplies.  We are especially excited about a recent KAHPERD (KS Assoc. for Health - Physical Education) grant we have received that is going to allow us to have a (yet to be announced) grand finale. 

It is our hope that we can eventually get this program fully funded so it can continue to thrive and hopefully grow over the coming years. 

The program was initially introduced as a way to increase physical activity.  Our goal was to get kids to move more by encouraging them to walk.

We had noted that there were some students who were choosing not to get active at recess.  Some would choose to sit, while others were having trouble finding a friend to play with. 

By implementing this program we have given kids another chance to move.  They can walk at any pace they choose and friends can join them.  It's a great way to socialize and exercise at the same time. 

The health benefits of walking include helping to control weight and blood pressure, maintaining bone, muscle and joint health, decreasing the risk of developing diabetes and improving psychological welfare.  The positive impact it has on cognitive skills and attitudes can translate into the classroom with increased academic performance and improved behaviors.  

SWAG takes place on a 1/4 mile walking path that is marked out around our playground.  

For each lap the child makes he/she gets to swipe a bar code on an iPad that will keep track of each lap. For every 5 miles completed students are rewarded with a token that they can add to a chain which they are given with their first token. 

 Tokens are in the shape of a foot and come in a variety of colors.  The kids enjoy comparing tokens and competing to earn more, all while reaping the benefits of walking.

Special tokens are earned at the 10 mile marks (10,20,30...) with a t-shirt for 50 miles.  At the end of the eight week program. the top 10 walkers get to choose a sports ball which we award to them at an assembly at the end of the school year. 

Last year we had 224 out of 287 students participate in some capacity.  This year we have seen a 99 percent participation rate; 296 students out of 298 have done at least one lap.  Total mileage after the eight week program last year was 6,345 miles.  This year, after just two weeks, students have already logged 2,673 miles.

SWAG takes place daily (weather permitting) at lunch recess. 

Thanks to a grant from the Hesston Community Foundation this past year, we were able to upgrade our program with an iPad app that helps us tally laps, know when to award prizes and gives us updated stats. 

With this app we have been able to give the teachers an easy way to implement the program anytime of day.  A lot of the teachers have the app on their personal iPads and have used the program at the 2nd recess of the day. They are also able to use it as incentive or class awards if they choose to. We've heard positive feedback from teachers about the program.  

A fun aspect that we have enjoyed with this program is having community advocates (people in the community that the kids know and look up to) join the kids as they walk/run.  It has been great for the kids to see that walking is a fun exercise and can be done by everyone young and old. 

Last year we were excited to have Mayor Dave Kauffman and his family join us, as well as our EMS/Firefighters, and some Big Brother/Big Sister friends. Hesston College was represented as well by some of the nursing students who came and walked off the stress of final exams while visiting with us. 

We like to post who our lunch visitors will be so that the kids know who will be joining them.  They love having community advocates that they look up to come to their school and spend some time having fun with them!  We've extended our invitations for this year and hope to continue to build relationships with our community.