During the spring semester, lower school English teacher Heather Russell got 32 lower school girls involved with the national Girls on the Run program. “I’m a runner and I thought this would be a great thing for girls, [because] many of them don’t think of themselves as runners,” Russell said. “But it’s really a lot more than that, because it’s an incredible curriculum that focuses on self-esteem and positive self-talk and self-image.”
The girls trained together for a 5K run in late May, in which they participated with 5,000 other runners. Each meeting started with a brief classroom activity based on the week’s theme, such as bullying, gossip and qualities that make good friends. Students also learned about healthy life habits and nutrition. The runners then did warm-up exercises and went on practice runs, which integrated various activities, including a scavenger hunt that had students locate scraps of paper that provided tips on how to be a good friend, such as learning how to say something positive about someone else. Parents of Girls on the Run participants were sent summaries of the topics so that they could continue the discussion at home.
“I thought this would be a great way to meet new people, make great friends and grow emotionally,” said Trisha Iyer, grade 5. “It’s a great way to talk about all these topics that everyone has trouble with but never really wants to share.”
Russell noted that even with increased efforts to encourage young girls to enter careers they are interested in, they still often feel insecure, something she hopes to improve with Girls on the Run. “What is exciting for me is just to see them discover the beautiful qualities of themselves,” she said.