October 25, 2014

Elyria
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Falcons fly toward fitness

Valerie Schuster, a counselor at Firelands Elementary School, knows video games, TV and the Internet have replaced outdoor play for many children when they are at home.

Unfortunately, the situation is no different at schools. Maintaining higher academic standards often means focusing on lesson plans while putting physical education on the back burner.

CHUCK HUMEL / CHRONICLE
Molly Hills, 10, a fourth-grader at Firelands Elementary School.

But Schuster could not sit idly by and let this happen to students at Firelands Elementary.

“We all need to move more,” Schuster said.

So, she set out to find a fun way to balance high academic standards with an increase in physical education.

Modeled after a successful program in South Carolina, Falcons on the Fly has been a huge success with students, parents and staff.
And the results are surprisingly far reaching.

With the Falcons on the Fly program, students are encouraged to walk a lap or two around the playground at recess. They can walk one lap or spend their entire recess walking. The choice belongs to the student. A teacher or student keeps track of laps by placing a tally mark with a washable marker on their hand. Every 16 laps around the playground is equivalent to a 5K marathon.
Kids are rewarded with a different color key chain to wear on their book bag when they reach the 5K, 10K, 15K and 20K marks.

Students who reach the 20K marathon mark also receive a T-shirt.

While the goal is on individual achievement, students encourage each other to walk as the classes with the most laps each semester win a pizza party.

Third-grader Victoria Grasso loves the new program.

“I feel like I have energy,” she said.

Victoria participated in the pilot program for Falcons on the Fly and completed a full 20K marathon in just four weeks. The program has done more than get kids interested in fitness.

Second-grade teacher Danielle Phillips has seen fewer behavior problems both in the classroom and on the playground. Given the opportunity to burn energy, kids are more settled and focused in the classroom, she said.

The playground also is more calm because kids have been enjoying walking laps. And the walking is good for kids who are uncomfortable with organized sports, according to school officials.

Contact Amy McLysaght at 329-7155 or metro@chroniclet.com.