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Happy Feet keep youngsters walking at Beeks Elementary in Blacksburg


BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 7, 2005 – Students at Margaret Beeks Elementary School in Blacksburg may not be setting world records, but they are setting records for themselves to get exercise.

Members of Virginia Tech’s Fitness and Nutrition Club are encouraging and leading the Beeks’ students in a walking program called Happy Feet.

“We hope they are establishing the habit of exercise,” said Megan Foust of Chesterfield, Va., a senior majoring in human nutrition, foods, and exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences who is coordinating the students. The Fitness and Nutrition Club is an organization of students studying in the department of human nutrition, foods, and exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. They worked with Kathleen and Jon Poole, currently on the faculty at Radford University, who started the program.

Happy Feet is a program to keep track of how far each student and each grade walks. The elementary students walk a marked, tenth-of-a-mile trail at the school in the morning before classes start. It is a time when buses are arriving, some students are eating breakfast, and others are studying. Those students who wish, walk the trail at their own pace and with their friends. First and second graders walk on Tuesdays and Thursdays and third, fourth, and fifth graders on Mondays and Wednesdays.

The students get a marker for each tenth of a mile they cover. The markers are collected to count how far they walked each day.

The Fitness and Nutrition Club students visit with the youngsters and also keep track of their distances. A chart in the activity room shows miles the classes have walked. For specific distances—every three miles—the students get a shoelace token, a colorful plastic charm in the shape of a footprint. “These feet are prized by the students,” said Foust.

Teachers at Beeks seem supportive, said Foust. “Only students who wish to do so participate in Happy Feet,” she said. The regular physical education classes are part of the school day twice a week. The Virginia Tech students work with the teacher Lynn Hickok.

“Happy Feet is a fun way to start the day, out in the fresh air where the students can get their bodies and brains moving so they are ready to concentrate,” said second grade teacher Beth Holbrook, of Blacksburg.

“They get the wiggles out,” Holbrook said.