Pine Grove Elementary believes in starting early in terms of physical education and establishing healthy habits. Teachers Leah Goolsby, Meaghan Hoffman, and Brittany Starliper are in charge of PGE’s Girls on the Run program that encourages young girls to embrace a healthy style and build strong relationships.
The teachers decided to start the program when they found it was something they all had in common. Leah Goolsby explains, “It’s been established for a long time but this is the first year having it at Pine Grove Elementary. I had a friend who had done it in South Carolina. She had said how amazing it was so I contacted the principal and asked if he cared if we started it here and he was all for it.” In short order, 15 girls were signed up and ready to take off running.
Girls on the Run was founded in 1996 and is geared for girls in third through fifth grade. It’s primary mission is to teach girls to be happy, healthy, and full of confidence. The curriculum is experience-based which means the girls are taught hands-on skills that allow them to use what they are learning as they move through the program. The ultimate goal is for each girl to identify and acknowledge her limitless potential so that she can pursue her dreams, wherever they may lead. Girls on the Run teaches these skills through training for races by enhancing their health on every level, physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially.
Inspiration and Motivation
The PGE Girls on the Run chapter or “council” offers girls a chance to learn about themselves in ways they may not have tried prior to joining. The concepts that embody the Girls on the Run philosophy work to both inspire and motivate girls to keep moving forward as they continue to learn and grow. Once one goal is reached, another is put in place so that the girls always have something to work toward. While winning a 5k race is fun, one of the things the girls learn is camaraderie. If one girl lags behind, the others will continue to run with her even after they have finished the race. The girls don’t have to do this. They choose to. If one wins, they all win.
Learning Life Lessons
One of the goals of Girls on the Run is to help the girls develop self-respect as well as a healthy lifestyle. Brittany says, “ It teaches important life lessons through running. One of the big messages is goal setting and that you have to work towards a goal. It may not happen overnight. It might be hard at the end but they get to run two 5k’s. They get the feeling of actually working toward something and achieving it.” Meaghan continues, “When they first start out, some of the girls definitely think they have taken on more than they can handle, but in the end, they actually find themselves wanting to keep going.”
Different lessons are presented at each meeting. Meetings are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school. One of the goals during the course of the program was for each girl to go out and say “Hi!” to another person (student, teacher, etc.) that they may not otherwise talk to throughout the day. It’s a way of expanding their boundaries and the girls got a chance to interact with a variety of people. Meaghan said, “I think a lot of it was that you have these fifteen girls who would never really interact on a daily basis. So they form this bond every Tuesday and Thursday, spending this hour and a half together. They get to know each other. It’s creating friendships that wouldn’t be there otherwise.”
Creating Healthy Habits
The next part of the Girls on the Run mission is to create healthy habits that will stay with the girls throughout their lives. Some of the topics discussed in the meetings include eating disorders, internet safety, cyberbullying, drug/alcohol abuse, and creating positive relationships. Meaghan adds, “It focuses on their physical well-being and mental well-being. It helps them with their self-esteem. It teaches them a lot of important lessons like staying fit as well as realizing the the thoughts they have and how they treat others. Many of the girls learn about themselves and their own ability to persevere.”
As the girls move on to middle school, they will miss their weekly meetings but the teachers are hopeful that Pine Grove Middle will establish a Heart and Sole program. Heart and Sole is the next level after Girls on the Run. As the girls transition from elementary to middle school, the Heart and Sole program basically picks up where Girls on the Run left off. Even though the program is not yet in place, the teachers believe that the girls will continue to move forward as a group running together and maintaining the friendships they have established.
Girls who are in second grade this year can sign up for the Girls on the Run program that will start next fall at Pine Grove Elementary. The short, three-month program helps each girl build life-long habits that they can draw from as they move through high school and into college. While the Girls on the Run program is relatively new to the Pine Grove community, Goolsby, Hoffman, and Starliper are confident that it will remain an active and popular part of the school’s programs.