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.
PIGGY BANK GIFT
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.
“It felt like we were doing something very special for somebody and doing it for special people,” said student Breyanna Bassett.
Dame was surprised at the amount of donations the project was garnering and noted how one student even brought in his piggy bank, wishing to contribute his savings to the Special Olympics.
ON THEIR FEET
In Alger’s class, which wore the pedometers next, student Keira Davidson carefully added her daily totals together to discover she had walked 18,000 steps in five days.
Walking that much was “tiring,” she said, but wearing the pedometer was “exciting and really fun to do.”
According to Hahn, whose class began wearing the devices next, his students were making every effort to take as many steps as possible.
“Getting them to stay seated is a big problem,” he said.
“I’ve been trying to run more in gym,” said student, Connor Lamora, who was able to clock 2,185 steps in just a few hours.
“My favorite part is when I get back from all my (activities) and looking down (at) how much steps I got.”
THANK YOU NOTES
In addition to promoting exercise and use of math, the project will be applied to the second-grader’s English language arts lessons, as they will write thank you notes to the many teachers who sponsored their steps.
But for Connor, the most rewarding part of the experience has been assisting others.
“My favorite part is helping people getting their money to go to the Special Olympics,” he said.
Email Ashleigh Livingston:firstname.lastname@example.org