“Running is the space in my day when I feel the most beautiful – when I don’t feel judged by others. And that’s what I want for all little girls.” Well said, by Molly Barker, the mastermind behind the nationwide non-profit organization Girls on the Run. While Girls on the Run is a nationwide organization there is a great presence in Michigan. Girls on the Run is a twelve week, volunteer lead, after school program at elementary schools for preteen girls. The program addresses daily obstacles girls face with an emphasis on health and running and ends with a 5K run. The girls meet twice a week for 90 minutes, each day being lead by volunteer coaches. Each meeting begins with a healthy snack, followed by a lesson, getting on board and a run. The lessons always pertain to matters girls in 3rd, 4th and 5th grade are encountered with.
Visiting Creekside Elementary School in Hartland I listened in on a lesson about bullying. Following a snack of bananas, the girls branched off into small groups brainstorming and writing down examples of verbal, social or physical bullying. Later sharing their lists of examples with the whole group. Next was the ‘Getting on Board,’ usually consisting of a running game designed as a warm up before the run. The girls were positioned shoulder-to-shoulder and listened to their coach name off either an action of a bully or an action of a good friend. When the girls heard something a bully would do, such as pushing or name calling, they jump backwards twice. Hearing an action of a good friend, such as helping you with your homework or giving a compliment, the girls ran forward until told to stop.
Next comes stretching and the run, again incorporating the day’s theme of bullying. Before each quarter mile lap the girls were given a question pertaining to bullying to think about while running. Questions included: “What are two reasons why people bully?”, “If you are bullied who are two adults you could talk to?” and “What did you learn today about bullying?” Answers would be written down after each lap. To conclude the day at Girls on the Run is more stretching, an energy award and cheer. The energy award recognizes one girl who did something awesome such as picking up trash, helping someone out or sharing opinions. The girl being recognized stands in the center of a circle and is given an award in action that has been conjured up by her peers. Past energy awards include the surfer, superstar and the firecracker. The cheer concludes the day as the girls get in a close circle, with hands stretched out in the middle, starting soft and getting louder repeating “Girls on the run is so much fun!”
Girls on the run is based on the goal of encouraging preteen girls to develop self respect and healthy lifestyles through running. Visit their website or Facebook page to learn more about this amazing organization and ways to participate! Also be sure to check out their upcoming events page for details on their November 18th event! ~Danielle Gordon, Regional Director