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Having a Good Run at The Ellis Mendell School

The Ellis Mendell Elementary School
Roxbury, Massachusetts

Girls Walking On TrackIf you find yourself walking around Roxbury, Massachusetts and hear the pounding footsteps of elementary school students coming from a nearby Boston Public Schools track, you’ve likely stumbled upon the Running Club of the Ellis Mendell Elementary School!

The Running Club was launched in 2013, but it wasn’t until partnering with BPS and receiving a Parents for Healthy Kids Grant sponsored by ALDI that they were able to take the club to the next level. What used to be a maximum of 30 students doing morning runs in a public park has expanded to more than 50 students during the 2018-2019 school year around one of BPS’s ¼ mile tracks under the supervision of parents, teachers and community volunteers. Students used to spend time on the waitlist to be one of the lucky 30 members of the club, but now, thanks to the partnership and the funding they’ve received, the club is open to all interested 1st-5th grade students! This fall, nearly 25% of the students enrolled at The Mendell School participated in the Running Club.

mendell school running clubThe club, which meets once a week, provides tokens and certificates to students for meeting their personal goals, and students accumulated over 500 miles total during their first five-week session this year. With a goal of simply keeping kids active for 45 minutes before school, parent and teacher volunteers are there to encourage kids to just continually move their body. This inclusive model means some kids will run laps for all 45 minutes if they choose, while others will casually walk and catch up with friends or hop and skip around the track.

“As one of the co-founders of The Mendell Running Club, I have seen this club grow from less than 30 students as an after-school model to more than 50 students as a before-school model over the past 7 years. We have built in ways to make it inclusive and accessible to all students through ride-share options, rolling admissions, and continuing to offer it as a free extra-curricular activity,” said Elizabeth Hadley, Science Specialist and Running Club Faculty Coordinator.

Total laps are accumulated throughout each session, and students receive keychain tokens whenever they hit a milestone – 5k (3.1 miles), 10k (6.2 miles), 10 miles, and a half marathon (13.1 miles). “What I really like is that you get to be with your friends and run around, and you get your energy out before the day starts. And you get the prizes! But the best thing about the prizes is that nobody makes fun of you if you don’t get one, and no one brags about what prizes they do get,” said an 8-year-old Running Club member.

Being able to expand the Running Club this year and get more students involved through the use of tokens, incentives and promotional materials has proven to be a win for parents, students and teachers alike! Teachers have noticed that on days when students have Running Club in the morning, their students have an increase in concentration and focus and positively engage more during the day.

Students and staff at The Mendell School have also been busy in their school garden thanks to the additional support from the Parents for Healthy Kids grant! Students planted seasonal crops in their raised garden beds, participated in healthy taste tests with the fresh vegetables they’d grown, and then were able to bring some of the produce home to share with their families. In an effort to integrate the school garden into the curriculum, the school purchased a double-barrel composter for their outdoor classroom so 5th grade students can learn about different composting systems. As part of the school’s “Take Agency” core values, the 5th graders then go back and teach other students and staff about compostable and recyclable waste.