Friday, September 13, 2013

Kids Improve Health as They Walk and Learn

Guest blog post by Laura Fenn 

“It’s even better than Mario Brothers!”

"Sometimes you get distracted by the groundhogs, but you can always press 'back' so you can concentrate."

“I did not realize how much empty calories affect my body.”

The above quotes are taken directly from letters written by fifth grade students about their experience with The Walking Classroom. The Walking Classroom is an award-winning nonprofit program that increases students’ physical activity, builds core content knowledge, and provides teachers with an educational tool that addresses different learning styles.

How?  Well, it’s quite simple, actually.

Children are active learners as they walk briskly while listening to Common Core-aligned podcasts on pre-loaded audio devices called “WalkKits.”  The WalkKits come loaded with a school year’s worth of kid-friendly, educational podcasts, and the entire class enjoys a walk while listening to the same podcast (not during recess or PE!). Each podcast begins with a brief health literacy message and all are supported by an extensive lesson plan that includes a comprehension quiz. Our program is currently being used by thousands of fifth graders across the country, and it's funded in large part through donations and grants from companies that support initiatives to improve physical fitness in our nation's youth.

How Your School Can Apply for a Walkkit Grant 
If you are a NC teacher, BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina and the North Carolina PTA might be able to help you bring the program to your school! The kits are only available for fifth graders right now, but a fourth grade program will be available later this fall. Every year, BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina offers an equipment-only grant cycle. Grant applications for equipment that will increase students’ physical activity are currently being accepted, and The Walking Classroom is featured on BCBSNC’s website as an example of equipment that would fall under their grant parameters. This is a wonderful opportunity for school PTAs to seek funding so that they can purchase The Walking Classroom program for their students.

The grant application is not too arduous, and we here at The Walking Classroom would be happy to help you and your PTA along with the process—just make sure you meet the requirements. According to the BCBSNC website:
  • Schools must be public K-12 education organizations
  • Schools must have a PTA in good standing or must actively be in the process of starting a PTA
  • For those schools with PTA organizations, the PTA must be the applicant organization
  • For those schools currently initiating a PTA organization, the school may be the applicant organization
  • Schools must have an active school wellness team
  • Schools must have a completed school wellness plan or actively be in the process of completing a school wellness plan
Schools Eligible for the Grant
To be eligible for the grant, your school must be located in one of the following counties: Beaufort, Bladen, Buncombe*, Chatham, Cherokee, Chowan, Currituck, Davie, Guilford*, Halifax, Hertford, Jackson, Madison, McDowell, Orange*, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Pender, Pitt*, Polk, Rockingham, Swain, Vance.
*Note: Schools in Buncombe, Guilford, Orange and Pitt counties must have a free and reduced lunch percentage of at least 60% of students.

More Details about the Blue Cross Blue Shield Grant
If your school meets the above requirements, The Walking Classroom will extend a discounted rate for the program.  Individual WalkKits and Teacher Guides are normally $100, but we will extend a 20% discount to grant applicants (i.e. a class set of 28 WalkKits and a Teacher’s Guide would be $2320 instead of the usual $2900).

If your grant application is funded by BCBSNC, your school would receive the check from BCBSNC by the end of November, at which point you’d be able to purchase The Walking Classroom with those funds!

If your school is eligible, I hope you and your PTA take advantage of this wonderful grant opportunity. Click the application link to get started. Completed applications are due by 5:00 pm October 7.

Learn More About The Walking Classroom
To learn more about The Walking Classroom, you can download the flyer on the right. If you would like to speak with me personally about the program, consider attending my session at the Elementary School Conference on Monday, October 21st. I'll also be available to answer questions at the Walking Classroom exhibitor booth throughout the conference.

If you’d like to “test drive” The Walking Classroom, 10 podcasts and lesson plans are available for free download from LearnNC, a program run by the University of North Carolina’s School of Education. If your school is not eligible for the Blue Cross Blue Shield grant, don't worry! We are continually seeking sponsors for our Walkkits, and we have a grant application you can fill out on our website to be added to a waiting list.

Good luck and happy trails!

Laura Fenn
Founder, The Walking Classroom

Laura Fenn, MS Ed, was a classroom teacher for 10 years. She is the co-founder and Executive Director of The Walking Classroom Institute, an educational nonprofit created BY a teacher FOR teachers. The program is dedicated to providing teachers with an easy to implement tool that improves the health and education of students.


  1. I am a Third Grade teacher in Georgia. Is this available to schools outside of North Carolina?

    1. Read the article to the very end to find the answer to your question. This grant is not available, but there are others you can apply for.

  2. Replies
    1. If Robeson County is not on the list, you can't get that grant. But if you go to the website, there are other grants available.