Encouraging kids to take a walk


Mi­chael Hawkins, a seni­or dis­trict sales man­ager for the San­ofi Aventis phar­ma­ceut­ic­al com­pany, be­lieves the 250 pe­do­met­ers he re­cently de­livered to Gen. J. Harry LaB­rum Middle School can have a real im­pact.

“You’re go­ing to de­crease dia­betes,” he told sixth-, sev­enth- and eighth-grade mem­bers of stu­dent coun­cil. “Walk­ing can help pre­vent one of the most de­bil­it­at­ing dis­eases in the world.”

Hawkins and ex­ec­ut­ive sales­wo­man Ce­celia Free­man, who are based in Bridge­wa­ter, N.J., vis­ited the school on Jan. 18.

Her hus­band, Dav­id Free­man, is LaB­rum’s phys­ic­al edu­ca­tion teach­er. He noted the link between child­hood obesity and dia­betes, and was happy that the phar­ma­ceut­ic­al com­pany donated the pe­do­met­ers, which are in­stru­ments car­ried by walk­ers and jog­gers that meas­ure the dis­tance covered by re­cord­ing the num­ber of steps taken.

LaB­rum, at 10800 Haw­ley Road in the Far North­east, has had a bad repu­ta­tion, like many oth­er middle schools in Phil­adelphia.

Prin­cip­al Bill Griffin ex­plained that LaB­rum is in the pro­cess of be­com­ing a demon­stra­tion school, mean­ing that teach­ers will have to pass cer­tain tests to be eli­gible to work there.

Griffin also serves as prin­cip­al of John Han­cock Ele­ment­ary School, a kinder­garten to fifth-grade school in Mor­rell Park.

The new part­ner­ship has helped LaB­rum’s en­roll­ment grow from a measly 150 last year to 192 this year. Griffin ex­pects the smallish school to grow to about 250 stu­dents soon.

In ad­di­tion, the School Dis­trict of Phil­adelphia has been mak­ing vari­ous phys­ic­al renov­a­tions and im­prove­ments to the school.

All stu­dents and staff will re­ceive the square purple pe­do­met­er, sponsored by the dia­betes drug Lantus.

For ac­cur­ate dis­tance meas­ure­ments, users must walk or jog con­sist­ently. Be­fore us­ing, they enter their stride length, meas­ured heel to heel or toe to toe, in­to the pe­do­met­er’s memory.

The bat­tery-op­er­ated pe­do­met­ers clip eas­ily to pants or shorts.

Free­man, the teach­er, plans to hang a large United States map on a wall as part of the ini­ti­at­ive.

“We’re go­ing to track our miles as we go,” he said. “On a weekly basis, we’re go­ing to cal­cu­late our steps in­to miles so we can see how far we go the re­mainder of the year. We’re go­ing to track it on the map, and it will add ex­cite­ment to the whole thing.”

Griffin, the prin­cip­al, plans to con­duct a “Blue and Gold Com­pet­i­tion.” Stu­dents will be di­vided in­to two teams, based on the school col­ors, and they will be giv­en points based on use of the pe­do­met­ers. The school is loc­ated near fields and a re­cre­ation cen­ter, and stu­dents will get to use their pe­do­met­ers a lot more when the weath­er warms.

The win­ners of the joint aca­dem­ic and phys­ic­al com­pet­i­tion will earn a class trip, and Griffin ex­pects a battle.

“Middle school kids are typ­ic­ally com­pet­it­ive,” he said.

Griffin ex­plained that the school has a weight room, and that some stu­dents sit on large ex­er­cise balls, rather than at desks, in class, if it makes them more com­fort­able and at­tent­ive. He be­lieves the pe­do­met­ers will lead to in­creased phys­ic­al activ­ity.

“That’s the idea,” he said. “You can squash en­ergy or you can har­ness en­ergy of kids and use it for edu­ca­tion­al pur­poses.” ••


You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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