A crowd of students and their families running in circles at Cameron Street Public School every morning this week is also making great strides toward a strong community that is learning together the value of social exercise and friendly competition.
This week a new initiative called the Kilometre Club, started by the school's parent council volunteers, encourages students to come to school 30 minutes early and spend the time walking or running a lap around the school field as a group.
"It's been epic!" exclaimed the club organizer Cachelle Colquhoun, who is also the chair of the Cameron Street Public School parent council. On Tuesday, she estimated there were about 500 participants, including students and their families. In the first two days of the initiative, the participants completed 6,000 laps of the field.
The club works like this: each student gets a necklace and a charm on their first day of participating. They can collect extra charms for activities like walking or biking to school or bringing family members, neighbours, or friends to participate with them. Each participant collects one popsicle stick for every lap they complete, and if they aren't a Cameron Street student, they can give their sticks to the student they are supporting. The sticks are added up at the end of the half-hour and a volunteer writes the lap total on each student's hand (including their supporter's laps), so they wear their lap total proudly all day.
Colquhoun said the idea behind the initiative was to improve mental health by helping kids "get the wiggles out" before class, and also to connect people who haven't been around each other for three or more years.
"I'm a huge proponent for community, I want people to know each other," said Colquhoun. "We're trying to build this community for our kids and show them that being active is good for all of us."
She said students are bringing their siblings who are attending other schools, their parents, their grandparents, and sometimes their neighbours.
She said the competitive side of some families has come out in a fun way, and one day there was basically an adult running club joining their kids on the field. She's heard from teachers that kids are more positive and happier in class, and the school office staff told her they're giving out fewer late slips.
One of the fathers who participates in Kilometre Club has added trash pick up to his morning laps, and earned an extra charm for his child.
"It's grown so much already," said Colquhoun. "People are so happy to get to meet each other ... we're just trying to create a love and endorphin situation."
On May 31, the club was also joined by On the Move program supporters from the Town of Collingwood who are encouraging "walk or wheel Wednesdays," which promotes walking or riding your bike to school or work on Wednesdays through the month of June to celebrate bike month.
June 1 will be the last day for the Kilometre Club at Cameron Street Public School, and the class with the highest participation levels will win the "golden shoe" award. Colquhoun said she's hoping to run the club for a week in the fall and spring every school year.