There were a lot of empty seats at Osoyoos Elementary School last Wednesday morning.
Instead, about 90 OSES students — more than one quarter of the school population — were in Cawston, engaged in what has quickly become a favourite school pastime.
The students were attending the SD53 district cross-country championships, and, if you’ll excuse the pun, running away with the majority of the eight district titles.
We can’t tell you for sure how many because the school is downplaying its success, but by this observer’s count, it was at least five, and probably six or seven.
“We are really focusing on physical literacy and introducing children to as many different aspects of physical, mental and emotional health as possible,” said teacher Ryan Miller, who champions the program.
“Through participation in different physical activities, children build confidence in how their bodies move, along with how their bodies feel physically, mentally and emotionally when they are active.”
“Running is a big part of this healthy lifestyle,” said Mr. Miller. “Often, running is not looked upon favourably and has been used as a form of punishment in the past and even today.
“We are trying to change the mind-set around physical activity like running by building an appreciation for it at an early age and seeing it as ‘We get to run!’ instead of ‘I have to run’.”
“Our philosophy is based on participation, students giving their best effort and empowering kids to take pride in who they are and what they can accomplish,” added Dave Foster, the school’s principal.
“The Learn to Run Program (April and May) shares that philosophy: health benefits, self-regulation, reduction of screen time, teamwork, positive attitudes and relations are also things we also strive for with the Learn to run program.”
Mr. Miller says he got the idea for the program after attending a conference with NCAA coach Bob Brown, who encourages a positive conditioning philosophy.
“I have students competing and working hard to earn push-ups instead of using them as punishment in PE class,” Mr. Miller said. “It takes awhile to change minds about the benefits of things like running and push-ups but it is pretty powerful when kids get there.”
He added he expects the school’s success on the cross-country trail will begin to show up in other sports as well.
“Through these running programs, we are seeing improvements in our students’ physical literacy, which translates into more participation in all physical activities and, obviously, success at district meets with strong performances from our kids.”