By Bonnie Chapman
As families of the North State delight in the step-by-step return to normal, anticipating full school days and schedules, smiles abound. Kids will be back with their friends, teachers – fully resuming activities that were stunted or halted due to the pandemic. This is awesome. At the same time, it is critical to be mindful of helping children reengage. Kids weathered the pandemic doing school in all variations, from full-time at home, part time at school, or some hybrid combination. Focus on getting the academics right under these circumstances was paramount, and social-emotional learning (SEL) had to take a back seat. Lots of research has been done, and it is indisputable that SEL is key to successful student performance, especially during elementary school. Providing students with skills and tools that will help them transition and set them up for success this fall is essential. For girls entering grades 3-8, Girls on the Run offers all of the above and much more.
For a decade, Girls on the Run of the North State has provided girls in eleven northern California counties with its evidence-based curriculum that nurtures the development and growth of young girls’ minds. It is a transformational, positive youth development after-school program that teaches life skills through dynamic, conversation-based lessons and running games. The program culminates with the girls being physically and emotionally prepared to complete a celebratory 5K running event. The goal of the program is to unleash confidence through accomplishment while simultaneously teaching participants to establish a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness. Girls on the Run’s program is perfectly poised to assist in the return to normal.
The seasonal program serves girls with two different age-appropriate models for elementary and middle school students. Molly Barker founded Girls on the Run in 1996 in Charlotte, North Carolina, after an epiphany of how running helped her to overcome hard things in her past. She designed the non-profit to encourage girls to learn about themselves through lessons covering pertinent topics, partnered with healthy practices around exercise
and running. “Girls face a lot of challenges in today’s world! Girls on the Run helps them find their voices, build their confidence, and teach them their potential is limitless,” explained Girls on the Run of the North State Executive Director, Claire Johnson.
Three years ago, a national independent study confirmed that the program is making a significant difference in girls physically, mentally, and emotionally. Research shows girls’ confidence peaks at age nine and then plummets. Ninety-seven percent of Girls on the Run participants build confidence by learning specific life skills like managing emotions, resolving conflict, and helping others. More than one million girls nationwide have now taken part. It is a movement, changing the lives of young girls everywhere.
One of the life changing skills that girls embrace during GOTR is goal setting. Girls set lap goals during every session of GOTR as they train for the ultimate goal of completing the celebration 5K at the season’s end. They learn to assess how their body feels and gauge the number of laps run before they decide on the goal for each practice. Girls are taught to run their “happy pace,” tuning in to their bodies and making an individual decision for movement based on how they feel each day. They are encouraged to keep moving forward no matter what –whether walking, running, skipping, or hopping. These lessons are easily applied to other aspects of their school and home lives, using the same step-by-step method of self-assessment and making their way toward a goal. This skill is certainly one of many that will be helpful to girls as they return to school, group activities, their social lives, and other extra-curricular activities. Amy Griffin, who teaches in the Business School at Chico State and is a volunteer GOTR coach, reflected on this, “In a world that has been so repressed in the past year, GOTR gives our girls hope for tomorrow.”
Many North State schools offer Girls on the Run after school in fall, spring, or both. Teams are coached by trained volunteers who lead the twice a week sessions. Parents, teachers, and community volunteers become program coaches and most find that GOTR inspires them as they lead their teams. “It’s so nice to help girls be their best selves. Girls on the Run has a well thought out curriculum that really teaches the girls well. I’m inspired by the positive energy and spunk of my team,” said Griffin. There is always room for more volunteer coaches, so please get in contact if this is something you would like to try. Every girl should have the chance to be a Girl on the Run. For more information or to register a girl, visit www.gotrnorthstate.org.