Saturday, April 4th, 2009
By Margie Wuebker
Geography, phys ed merge on Marion school grounds
  MARIA STEIN - Students and staff at Marion Local Elementary/Junior High School are walking across the U.S. not once but twice with nary a complaint about tired feet.
Principal Karen Post introduced a program where students log the miles they walk as a means of promoting physical fitness and helping students learn more about their homeland.
Physical education teacher Treva Fortkamp determined five laps around the gym equaled a quarter mile, and it wasn't long before the outdoor playground sported a similar course.
The walking began in October. The students' miles around the gym or playground were charted on a huge map of colorful construction paper with tiny footprints showing where those miles would get them.
"The kids really got into walking and their enthusiasm was contagious," Post says. "Even the staff jumped on board with one teacher logging 4 miles a day. Those on playground duty walked while keeping an eye on students."
The principal records distance traveled each week on a large chart for all to see. The posting of numbers generates plenty of rivalry with one homeroom trying to out-walk another.
Weekly mileage runs the gamut from 806 at the low end of the spectrum to a record 2,100 miles. The total as of last Monday stands at 29,548 miles.
"The winter months were not so hot," Post admits. "However, we can click off 2,000 miles a week during nice weather."
Students log the laps they run or walk in physical education classes or as part of athletic conditioning in the weekly totals. Miles logged at home or on the playground during recess also count.
"I walk a lot at home," fourth-grader Jessie Kramer says. "Especially when I take the dogs (Oscar and Biff) around the pond."
Fellow fourth-graders Reid Moeller and Marie Wilker share their favorite methods for logging distance - he makes good use of the soccer field near home while she uses the family treadmill.
Kindergartners feared the challenge might end once they arrived at the Pacific Ocean. However, Post quickly solved the dilemma by placing stepping stones in the water en route to the Hawaiian Islands.
"I think it's cool walking right across the ocean," student Hayden Jackson says. "We just have to stay on Miss Post's paper rocks."
The principal introduced several new features for the second trek across the nation. She methodically removes the footprints added during the first pass as a means of charting current progress. However, it is the trivia contest that draws the most interest these days.
"I decided to throw some interesting facts into the mix," she says. "It keeps me as well as the teachers on our toes."
Some questions are easier than others. Students and even a few teachers had trouble coming up with New Hampshire as the site of the first public library, the birthplace of Daniel Webster and the state where the nursery rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb" originated. The majority identified Colorado as the home of the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Post is happy about the results of the project thus far - both physical activity and interest in the states has increased dramatically. However, at least one student is looking ahead to bigger and better accomplishments.
A kindergartner approached her in the hall the other day and asked "Miss Post, when are we going to walk around the world?"
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