SARANAC — Special Olympians Matthew Thomson and Justine Ellstrom have given second-graders at Saranac Elementary School something to walk about.
The two medalists recently visited the school to kick off Special Steps for Special Olympics, a project organized by Matthew’s mother, Jane Thomson, and her fellow Saranac Elementary second-grade teachers Tanley Hahn and Elishia Alger, as well as math teacher Diane Dame and physical education instructor Mark Burrell.
During their visit, both Justine and Matthew, who is 29 and has Down syndrome, wore their medals and signed autographs for the school’s three second-grade classes.
“It was a perfect kick-start to the event because the kids were so excited,” Mrs. Thomson said.
The students were then challenged to seek out sponsorship and wear pedometers for a week to count their daily steps.
Sponsors could make a flat donation or designate a dollar amount to give for each mile a student walked, with all proceeds being awarded to the Special Olympics of Clinton and Essex Counties.
Mrs. Thomson’s class took the first turn wearing the pedometers.
At the end of each day, her students added their individual steps together to come up with a daily total for the class.
Then they graphed it on a chart as part of their math lesson.
As a result, the students found themselves adding, rounding and reading six-figure numbers, which, Mrs. Thomson noted, is beyond the second-grade math level.
“They’re really surprising us,” she said.
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Over the five-day period, the class walked a total of 272,932 steps, or about 158 miles.
“We walked so many miles,” student Collin Lashway said, “we could walk from here to Albany.”
Next, the students collected the donation money from their sponsors and sorted, counted and rolled it.
Jane’s class alone raised more than $970.