Centerville • Weekday mornings at 10:30 students at J.A. Taylor Elementary participate in a 15-minute physical fitness blitz. Students, parents, teachers, the principal and even some South Davis fire fighters participate in the student's quest to symbolically walk around the world.
It's all part of the Utah Department of Health's Gold Medal Schools Program. According to the Utah Department of Health's website, one in every four Utah students in grades K-8 is at risk for becoming overweight. The program was designed to engage Utah students in physical activity and healthy eating habits. The program, which began in 2001, has currently reached 373 elementary schools.
Schools that participate in the program and reach their goal are awarded cash prizes. Taylor Elementary began participating in the program six years ago. Since then they have achieved or surpassed all the goals set by the program.
"We are at the top. We've done bronze, silver, gold and this is our second year earning platinum," said Nancy Robinson, playground and office assistant.
Taylor's theme for the school year is "We are the world!" In keeping with that theme, the fitness goal is to walk the number of miles it would take to walk around the world. Activity and geography are combined as the classes compete to walk across continents. Students track their activity at recess with punch cards. They can walk, run or jump rope around a track. When a punch card is completed, the student has walked five miles. Classes combine their cards for class miles.
All the students receive a passport. The younger student's passports include pictures for them to color and an empty page where they can write notes. The older students are assigned five learning topics for each continent they walk through.
Principal Vicki Corwin came up with the idea for walking around the world and worked closely with Robinson to design and implement the program.
When the recess bell rings, students converge on Robinson to have their cards punched.
"It's a fast and furious 15 minutes," said Robinson.
One of the star performers is sixth grader Matt Rushforth. In four months, Matt has already jump roped almost 100 miles. "I like jumping because it's faster than walking. My dad is a track coach and he's inspired me. He thinks I'm going to be a gold medal Olympian someday," said Matt.
Kylie Buringham, a third grader, is well on her way to walking 75 miles. She walks at least three times a week.
Rachel Randall, another jump roper, is almost to 100 miles and has a goal of 170.
"It's faster and I get more punches," she said.
Also on the field jumping rope is Principal Corwin.
"It's just a positive thing. You don't have to do a sport or be an athlete to participate," she said.
Robinson enjoys seeing all the kids get involved.
"None of our kids just sit during recess. It's a way for everyone to participate. Even the shy kids or the ones who aren't as coordinated can get out and walk," she said.
Robinson said that in addition to the physical activity, it also teaches responsibility. Even kindergarteners are responsible for getting their cards punched and keeping track of how much they've walked or played.
In addition to exercise, the school is also encouraging students to eat more fruits and vegetables.
Along with the benefits of improved health the school celebrates all the achievements of the students with parties and prizes.