Cloverbuds and Kids Can Run members participate in the annual Kids Can Run 1 Mile Turkey Trot. Photos by Meggan Franks.
By Meggan Franks, Nicholas Uzee and Rochelle Wilking
While Louisiana has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in the nation at 19.1%, encouraging regular physical activity can help reduce their chances of joining those ranks. Furthermore, many children that want to participate in school sports do not qualify for the team due to roster limitations. By creating project clubs for sports and collaborating with school districts, more youth can learn a sport they are passionate about.
Kids Can Run is a unique 4-H project club created in collaboration between Meggan Franks, a specialist and avid runner, and the East Baton Rouge Parish 4-H faculty. The goal is simple: allow kids to learn to love running, one of the simplest forms of physical activity. The all-inclusive club welcomes youth of all abilities from kindergarten to eighth grade, meets twice a month at a local park and has parents and high school track athletes as leaders.
Each session includes a warm-up activity, dynamic stretching, the 4-H yoga pledge, the main activity (which is physical as well as educational), a cool-down activity, and a static stretch and reflection circle. Educational activities include youth learning the fundamentals of running, proper stretching, breathing techniques, warm-up, cool down, calisthenics, yoga, jumping and hurdling drills, relays, sprints, strength, sports health and first aid.
To incentivize participation and help youth grow their daily step count, the club implemented a step club challenge where youth earn a running shoe charm every time they log 3,500 steps (roughly 1.5 miles). In total, members have logged more than 504,000 steps through club participation. Parents report that the club has helped their child make new friends, gain confidence, learn about health and running and learn about 4-H.
“My child said he loves the running club, and it is so fun,” one parent said. “He especially loves the relays and team activities. He is always excited to go and talk about his experience when he gets home. I love that he finds joy in running and fitness. The club is amazing, fun and inclusive.”
To replicate the club in other parts of the state, the club leader is collaborating with one of the lead coaches on the board of the U.S. Track and Field and Cross-Country Association to develop a six-lesson running club curriculum.
Kids Can Run members warm up and stretch before moving on to the main meeting activities for the day.
Club members gather for a youth-led yoga circle. Each member studies a new pose and teaches it to the group.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture