Students at River Ridge Elementary are running across China this year, and they're almost a third of the way there.
About 700 pupils in kindergarten through fifth grade aren't headed for Asia, but that's the idea physical education teachers George Adkins, Mike Wessner and Bob Russell have come up with to get them moving.
"We're trying to get the students motivated to run or jog," Adkins said. "Each year we pick out a theme for our field day, and this year the theme is China. So we decided we were going to run the Great Wall of China."
The well-known wall has stood for thousands of years on the other side of the planet. Adkins set the distance at 4,000 miles and has designated about 15-20 minutes each week in P.E. classes for students to run, jog or walk around the track behind the Evans school.
Wessner and Russell position themselves at the start/finish line of the track and hand out coffee stirrers each time a student completes a lap. At the end of the class period, the stirrers are counted and the overall distance is charted on a map inside the school.
So far, the results have surprised the staff.
"As of last week we've logged in 1,200 miles," Adkins said. "We thought 4,000 miles would take us till about April or May. At this pace we'll be done by Thanksgiving."
The track is an eighth of a mile long. Each pupil is given an award after hitting the five-mile (40 laps) milestone. It's an incentive most seem to embrace.
That includes 8-year-old Bailey Rhodes, a third-grader who tallied a personal best of 18 laps in the 15 minutes her class ran Tuesday.
"I like it very much. I have a little sister who's adopted from China, and I want to go there someday," she said. "I got 18 today. Last time I only got 16."
Adkins said that's exactly what the program is for.
"In the state of Georgia, approximately one in four third-graders is considered obese," he said. "How can we combat that? Well, we want to help students understand about a lifetime of fitness and how they can have fun with it.
"We want to help the kids enjoy physical fitness."
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