University students run with Lions

Elementary school running program promotes healthy activity


Students run and walk the lap’s final straightaway.

In a generation where electronic devices are more portable than ever and video games can capture a child’s attention for days, Longfellow Elementary School knows the importance of keeping its’ students physically active.

On alternating Tuesdays and Thursdays, UW- Eau Claire students go to Longfellow and cheer on the kids as they run around the playground through the Blazing Lions program.

Using positive encouragement and grade versus grade bragging rights, senior elementary education and special education major Sally Losinske and others from KINS 361 this semester push the lions to run as many laps as they can in the 20-minute period before school starts.

While the program requires students to run at least two laps, they are challenged to run more. Every lap earns the student a popsicle stick, which counts as a token for their respective grade class.

Losinske said Longfellow students don’t have much physical activity outside of gym class because those who live near the school must deal with busy Birch street, and that alone impassioned her involvement.

“It’s quite a reality hit where as a kid I was always running around,” Losinske said. “I was playing night games and running around the block. I had the opportunity whereas these kids, I’m looking through their lens and they don’t.”

Senior lecturer Sean Yengo has run the program out of his Physical and Health Education for Teachers of Grades K-8 class since 2003, and he believes it’s one of the most important things he can do to prepare his students for after graduation.

“Since my students are going to be teachers, this best prepares them for the physical interaction with kids,” Yengo said. “Not only does it provide them with the actual in-person experience, it creates an opportunity for my students to think of ways to engage younger students.”  

Longfellow physical education teacher Thomas Dahl said the program not only lets kids do physical activity, but it sets the groundwork for establishing a routine.

“If one kid is excited to run, usually his buddy will be too,” Dahl said. “After a while, you’ve got groups of kids running together, and that social aspect carries over after class starts.”

Dahl said Longfellow is always looking for volunteers, and if people are interested they should contact the school’s partnership coordinator Holly Larson.