Stetson Elementary School and Northstar Christian Academy are located 1,637 miles apart. Slowly but surely, students from each school are walking to the other.
The two schools are taking part in a cross-country challenge through the Healthy Highway program, which uses easy-to-understand traffic metaphors to teach children about proper nutrition and exercise habits. PreventObesity.net Leader Wendy Cooper founded the curriculum-based program during her last five years as a teacher, and offers it to schools across the country as part of her work to reduce childhood obesity.
Typical Healthy Highway lessons include special Food Cards that teach students the difference between “green light” foods such as fruits and vegetables and “red light” foods that ask kids to stop and think about their choices. But Cooper also tends to get creative – and that’s how the walking challenge between Stetson and Northstar came about.
Prior to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Cooper came up with the idea of implementing a physical activity component to the Healthy Highway program at Northstar Christian in New York. According to Cooper’s plan, students would track their mileage each day to see how long it will take to reach the U.S. Olympic Complex in Colorado Springs, Colo.
As it so happened, around the same time Cooper became connected to Matt Monfre, an award-winning physical education teacher at Stetson Elementary – which is located in Colorado Springs. Cooper and Monfre decided to combine their efforts to get students active by challenging their respective schools to reach the other one first.
A mascot named Flat Stanley, a paper cutout of a young boy, is helping students track their miles on a large map. The schools also have interacted on Skype, allowing students to share tidbits about tracking their miles — and the students are enthusiastic about their travels.
“My little ones go, “OK, we’re going to Colorado today,” Cooper says.