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Spring Creek students walk 100 miles

Carrie Moore
Published: Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

By Carrie Moore
As students in Custer County spend their final days at school, finishing up lessons and having parties, students at Spring Creek School will celebrate a huge accomplishment. Since the beginning of the year, students and teachers at Spring Creek have walked one mile every day to promote fitness and a healthy lifestyle. And on Wednesday, May 15, the group reached a milestone by walking their 100th mile.
The idea for the walk came from teacher Julie Zumpano and paraprofessional Mattie Ingram, who both love to walk and hike. 
“One of the reasons I moved from Minnesota to Custer was because of the hiking,” Zumpano said. “We wanted to promote healthy lifestyles for the kids and one of the ways we thought we could do that was by walking.”
In November, Zumpano, Ingram and seven students, ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade, began walking on Lower Spring Creek Road.
“Mattie went out with her truck and figured the mileage and we would walk about one mile every day,” Zumpano said. “There were some days we didn’t walk a whole mile. Sometimes the wind would be so strong we would turn around and call it a day.”
Some days the group would even walk two miles if the weather was nice.
“We would watch the weather and plan around that,” Zumpano said. “On warm days we would go in the morning and in the winter we would go after lunch or in the late afternoon.”
When the walking first started, Zumpano said many of the kids resisted the idea. However, as time went on, the kids have grown to enjoy it.
“We came back from a field trip one day and the kids asked if there would still be time to go on a walk,” she said. “In the beginning there were a lot of moans and groans, but as time went on they enjoyed it. They noticed the birds and other animals. They like coming back after a walk and relaxing by reading.”
While on their walks, students were spaced out enough to give each other room. Zumpano and Ingram would also take turns leading and following the kids in order to make sure they could keep up.
“We didn’t usually talk while on the walks,” Zumpano said. “That was really a quiet time for the kids to relax and think.”
Zumpano said there was a lot of support for the program from principal Jeremy Hurd, fellow teachers and some parents.
“When Mr. Hurd would come down and visit he would participate in the walks with us and we even had members of military walk with the students on their trips down,” she said. 
In addition to their walking, students learned about healthy food choices. They were encouraged to bring healthy lunches and snacks to school as well.
“Both Mattie and myself love to cook and bake so we would reward the kids by making a healthy meal for every 10 miles they walked,” Zumpano said. “We would make homemade pizza dough and top it with healthy toppings and Mattie would bring in fresh fruits and vegetables. We really wanted to keep them away from high sugars and over processed foods.”
The group plans to continue walking, even on their last day of school. As a reward, Zumpano made certificates for the children for the honor.
“We painted the kids’ feet, stamped them on scrapbook paper and added a line from Laura Ingalls Wilder about walking on the prairies as a remembrance,” she said. “With the school closing, we thought it would be a nice memory for the kids.”
From their walks, students have learned much more than healthy habits.
“They’ve learned patience and self-control,” Zumpano said. “It’s been good for the kids. It’s been a real growing experience for everyone. The kids have come so far and we’ve seen a lot of growth. It’s been a journey, but it’s been a lot of fun.”

As students in Custer County spend their final days at school, finishing up lessons and having parties, students at Spring Creek School will celebrate a huge accomplishment. Since the beginning of the year, students and teachers at Spring Creek have walked one mile every day to promote fitness and a healthy lifestyle. And on Wednesday, May 15, the group reached a milestone by walking their 100th mile.

The idea for the walk came from teacher Julie Zumpano and paraprofessional Mattie Ingram, who both love to walk and hike. 

“One of the reasons I moved from Minnesota to Custer was because of the hiking,” Zumpano said. “We wanted to promote healthy lifestyles for the kids and one of the ways we thought we could do that was by walking.”

In November, Zumpano, Ingram and seven students, ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade, began walking on Lower Spring Creek Road.

“Mattie went out with her truck and figured the mileage and we would walk about one mile every day,” Zumpano said. “There were some days we didn’t walk a whole mile. Sometimes the wind would be so strong we would turn around and call it a day.”

Some days the group would even walk two miles if the weather was nice.

“We would watch the weather and plan around that,” Zumpano said. “On warm days we would go in the morning and in the winter we would go after lunch or in the late afternoon.”

When the walking first started, Zumpano said many of the kids resisted the idea. However, as time went on, the kids have grown to enjoy it.

“We came back from a field trip one day and the kids asked if there would still be time to go on a walk,” she said. “In the beginning there were a lot of moans and groans, but as time went on they enjoyed it. They noticed the birds and other animals. They like coming back after a walk and relaxing by reading.”

While on their walks, students were spaced out enough to give each other room. Zumpano and Ingram would also take turns leading and following the kids in order to make sure they could keep up.

“We didn’t usually talk while on the walks,” Zumpano said. “That was really a quiet time for the kids to relax and think.”

Zumpano said there was a lot of support for the program from principal Jeremy Hurd, fellow teachers and some parents.

“When Mr. Hurd would come down and visit he would participate in the walks with us and we even had members of military walk with the students on their trips down,” she said. 

In addition to their walking, students learned about healthy food choices. They were encouraged to bring healthy lunches and snacks to school as well.

“Both Mattie and myself love to cook and bake so we would reward the kids by making a healthy meal for every 10 miles they walked,” Zumpano said. “We would make homemade pizza dough and top it with healthy toppings and Mattie would bring in fresh fruits and vegetables. We really wanted to keep them away from high sugars and over processed foods.”

The group plans to continue walking, even on their last day of school. As a reward, Zumpano made certificates for the children for the honor.

“We painted the kids’ feet, stamped them on scrapbook paper and added a line from Laura Ingalls Wilder about walking on the prairies as a remembrance,” she said. “With the school closing, we thought it would be a nice memory for the kids.”

From their walks, students have learned much more than healthy habits.

“They’ve learned patience and self-control,” Zumpano said. “It’s been good for the kids. It’s been a real growing experience for everyone. The kids have come so far and we’ve seen a lot of growth. It’s been a journey, but it’s been a lot of fun.”



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