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New club keeps kids active, out of trouble

Informal football games have been popular this year as part of the new recess club at Parkview Elementary.

So far this school year students at Parkview Elementary School have walked from Minnesota to Atlanta, through Illinois and west to Helena, Montana. All without leaving the comfort of their school grounds.

The students have put on the miles as part of a new recess club at Parkview. Students keep track of the laps they walk on a quarter-mile track outside their school, and media specialist Nicole Frovik tallies up the totals and lets students know how far they could have gone if they had strung all of their miles together. She tracks the route on a map in one of the school's hallways and includes fun facts about each day's destination city.

The first-year program is a way to get kids active at a time when many seem to have trouble finding something to do.

"We find (recess) is when a lot of discipline problems happen, with kids fighting or just getting bored or getting into trouble," said Frovik, who is also an administrative intern at the school. "They've played on the playground equipment a lot, but there's always kids that don't know what to do and they sit around."

To get kids up and moving, Frovik applied for a Statewide Health Improvement Program grant from Dakota County. She used the $2,500 she received to buy equipment like basketballs and jump ropes for kids to use at recess, and to stock the library with sports-themed books.

Frovik also worked with one of the school's physical education teachers to give kids a common set of rules for games like kickball or basketball. If kids are playing with the same rules, Frovik figured, there will be less argument about what is allowed.

A teacher also leads students in an informal football game most days at recess, playing quarterback while kids sprint downfield in hopes of catching passes. Before this year, football was not allowed at recess.

So far, Frovik has been happy with response to the new club. More than 250 kids have recorded time on the walking course, and the students have collectively covered 5,230 miles.

Students get a small prize like a pencil or a keychain charm for every 40 laps they walk. There are drawings for larger prizes.

"We found that the older kids need a little more of an incentive," Frovik said.

Other Rosemount schools have had success with similar programs. Shannon Park Elementary School launched its Healthy Exercise at Recess Time, or HEART, course in 2008.

"It's definitely helped with discipline issues on the playground," Frovik said. "We're seeing kids be more involved in other activities."