Parents Pave Way for Before-School Physical Activity

At Canfield Elementary, physical activity is paramount to teachers, parents, and students alike. The school’s commitment to movement is evident in its morning running club, physical activity breaks in the classroom, and annual field day, which is staffed entirely by teacher and parent volunteers.

In April 2013, a close-knit group of parents and teachers from Canfield, located in Los Angeles, California, decided to take their fitness efforts to the next level by joining Let’s Move! Active Schools.

Becoming More Active

Each morning, parents, teachers, and students meet at the track at 7:40 am to start their day with a sweat. The Morning Mile program was started by Canfield’s physical education teacher nearly eight years ago.

“Kids are eager to get to school before the bell to get out and run and get ready for the day,” said Jorge Flores, co-chair of the school’s parent organization.

Although the physical education teacher is no longer with Canfield, parents and teachers saw the benefit in carrying on his Morning Mile legacy. The school draws strength from Friends of Canfield, a non-profit organization founded to support and enrich the educational environment at Canfield. Over the past several years, Friends of Canfield has prioritized physical activity by asking members to raise money and volunteer their time.

“At least three quarters of our parents are active in our school, helping out where they can,” said Flores. “We have field day, a jog-a-thon fundraiser—it’s a busy place! It wouldn’t happen without all the hands willing to make our events successful.”

Kids that participate in the Morning Mile can also track their progress towards the 100 Mile Club, a program that challenges kids to walk or run 100 miles during the school year. Parent volunteers tally the students’ laps and reward them with charms for each mile completed. Flores laughed: “I find charms in my house now like I do Legos!” More than half of the school’s 370 students have participated in the program.

Mashariki Kudumu, another active parent volunteer with Friends of Canfield, shares resources from the Let’s Move! Active Schools web site with teachers about how they can increase physical activity in the classroom.

“I think parents and teachers see the value of moving your body before and during the school day to increase everyone’s ability to focus, concentrate, and learn,” said Flores. Some teachers even incorporate tracking their students’ progress in the Morning Mile program into math lessons.

Moving More Means…

Both Kudumu and Flores’s sons will enter fourth grade in the fall. Flores’s son is not a star athlete, but he has excelled in the 100 Mile Club, exceeding 100 miles during the last school year. That’s what the 100 Mile Club is all about.

“Kids learn: I don’t have to be the best basketball player or the fastest runner to move my body,” said Kudumu.

Teachers and parents at Canfield know the habits their children develop can be lifelong. Kudumu said, “If you promote healthy behaviors in the school environment, they translate to the home as well.”

Parents also appreciate the opportunity to build relationships during the Morning Mile—and some even jog along with their kids and teachers.

“It gives kids the opportunity to develop friendships across grades or across classrooms with children that they might not have been friends with otherwise,” said Kudumu. Flores agreed, “It’s a community building time, too.”

Words to Move By

When asked how other schools can replicate Canfield’s success, Flores was quick to reply:

“It really just takes leadership, either from a very involved parent or inspiring teacher. That’s what we had in the founder of the Morning Mile club—someone who really lit a fire or our parent group, which has been able to sustain that.”


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