Elementary School Students to Run CDT for Fitness Program

Some 330 students at Franktown (Colorado)Elementary School will run the length of the 3,100-mile-long Continental Divide Trail as part of a fitness program.
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(Pine, Colo.) Annually only about 30 intrepid souls actually trek all 3,100 miles of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail but this school year all 330+ students at Franktown Elementary School will be running it.
Well, they won't actually have to leave their school to do it, but these kindergarten through 6th graders will be accumulating laps around the school track all year towards the goal of running the length of the country's highest, longest, wildest Trail. The Continental Divide Trail stretches 3,100 miles from Canada to Mexico (including 750 miles in Colorado).
“We stand for a trail that's about connecting people to the land,” said Susan Westhoff, Continental Divide Trail Alliance director of volunteer programs. “So, we jumped at the chance to participate.”
Laura Arndt is the parent coordinator of a “fun run” and fundraiser that gets the school's fitness program going Fri., Sept. 29.
“With headline news focusing on childhood obesity and children's nature-deficit disorder (disconnected to the outdoors and nature), we made the Fun Run a kick-off for a year of learning about outdoor fitness activities we hope the kids can use their whole lives,” Arndt said.
Last year's “fun run” raised more than $12,000 for the school's academic programs. Franktown is about 35 miles south and east of Denver.
Using something like the Continental Divide Trail gives the kids a way to see where they've been and where they're going. Besides exercising their bodies, they'll get to exercise their brains, too, by learning about the Trail and related topics along the way.
“It makes it more fun for everybody if you can put it in context,” Arndt said.
Last year they used the American Discovery Trail. This year Arndt said they were looking for something closer to home, when she came across a John Fielder poster that mentioned the Continental Divide Trail. She contacted CDTA for more information. CDTA is providing everything from maps to prizes.
“This is a great opportunity to open the students' world to something wonderful in the outdoors and support the school's fitness program,” said CDTA's Westhoff, “We're also providing information on local hikes, so whole families can get involved.”
Arndt credits Mary Wood, Physical Education teacher, for helping to make the program a success. Arndt says Wood encourages her students by telling them “Every lap counts.” They continue running in P.E. classes throughout the year.
“The whole thing is a cooperative team effort for the whole school,” Arndt said.
Whether a student runs 1 lap or 100, everyone contributes toward the overall goal and at the end of the year everyone gets a certificate. Students also can earn prizes for their efforts.
By all accounts running is catching on at the school. Students have already been telling their P.E. teacher they want to run and more than 50 students have signed up to be in a marathon club, according to Arndt.
By the end of the year, students at Franktown Elementary not only will have run the length of the Continental Divide Trail but Arndt and others hope getting fit and staying fit will become a lifelong habit. Who knows? Maybe some day former Franktown Elementary School students will be among that intrepid 30, trekking the whole Continental Divide National Scenic Trail for real.
The Continental Divide Trail was established by Congress as a National Scenic Trail in 1978. When complete, the “King of Trails” will be the most significant trail system in the world. Stretching 3,100 miles along the backbone of America from Canada to Mexico, it accesses some of the most wild and scenic places left in the world while conserving the environment and promoting personal well being.
Since 1995, the Continental Divide Trail Alliance has played a central role toward the completion, management and protection of the Trail, including coordinating more than 8,000 volunteers who have contributed more than $3.5 million in labor. Continental Divide Trail Alliance is the voice for unity in the diverse story of the Trail.
For more information about the Continental Divide Trail, call (303) 838-3760 or toll-free 1-888-909-CDTA (2382). Or visit www.cdtrail.org.

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