Students at Long Branch Elementary School are getting their own walking path -- and it didn't cost a penny.
On Thursday Oct. 23, some 430 students from kindergarten through sixth grade went outside and started to create their own walking trail with nothing more than their feet. The six-foot-wide, quarter-mile-long path was marked off ahead of time by LBE staffers, but everything else was done by the kids.
"It's totally theirs," said school nurse Becky Launt. "They have total ownership of it, from the littlest kids to the biggest."
The creation of the path kicked off with a pep rally in which kids first learned about the path they were about to make.
The path was something school parents had been looking for in order to increase the exercise kids get at recess.
"We were looking for something we could have at recess to get kids healthy and active," said Principal Bob McCrone. "Originally, we thought about trying to get a grant, but that fell through."
Not to be disappointed, Launt, who spearheaded the initiative, suggested having the kids make it themselves.
"You see paths in the woods all the time. Do you think they needed a backhoe or a frontloader to make them? No," Launt said. "So why can't we make a path just using our own feet?"
The goal is to have each child walk the loop at least once before recess every day. Children can walk more if they like. The school will keep track of distance traveled on a chart outside McCrone's office.
"Kids are getting healthy exercise," McCrone said. "It's really as simple as it sounds."
And it won't just be used for exercise.
"We'll use it for learning, too," McCrone said. "It's a quarter of a mile, so we can work on fractions and adding it up. We'll also be charting the distance traveled for the whole school and showing the kids how far they've walked -- as far as walking to New York City, to Boston, to Washington D.C. -- so it's a geography lesson, too."
And the important thing is they're doing it together.
"It's a real community-building exercise," McCrone said. "We're doing this as a school, for the school."
Most of all, Launt said, the kids are learning that they don't need money to create something useful.
"It teaches so many lessons beyond, 'Okay, we're going to go outside and trample some grass,'" she said. "It's back to basics. They're learning that you can get what you want and what you need without having to spend $1 million."