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Sexton Mountain second-graders integrate pedometers to track Iditarod progress

Students count their steps to advance them in quest to win the Kiditarod

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Audrey Conrad and Sasha Tasker, second-graders in Lynne Martins class at Sexton Mountain Elementary School, look at how many steps theyve taken on their pedometers. While second-graders in Lynne Martin’s second grade class at Sexton Mountain Elementary School couldn’t make it to the grueling Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska, that doesn’t mean that they haven’t been participating virtually.

In this case, they’ve been getting exercise via their own personal pedometers donated by the Beaverton School District as part of the Active Students Task Force Pilot Program, which Sexton Mountain has incorporated into its sled dog race program.

For the last two weeks, Martin’s 27 students have participated in the “Kiditarod,” their version of the massive mushing contest, which kicked off on March 5 in the country’s 49th state.

Working in teams of three, Martin’s students add up their total steps every day, recording the numbers on a graph where more steps help them advance them to various Alaskan locations in an effort to win the Kiditarod.

“We’re having a lot of fun,” said Martin, who for a decade has been leading an annual unit that follows the 1,049-mile Iditarod. TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Second-graders in Lynne Martins class at Sexton Mountain Elementary School, run in place to a video to accumulate steps on their pedometers.

In addition to their steps, students incorporate a variety of school curriculum into their virtual dog sled race including social studies (mapping), math (graphing, determining times and adding up steps) and reading.

Their math workout, by the way, is an advanced one, Martin said. While they have a district-wide learning target of being able to add up three-digit numbers, they regularly have to add four- and five-digit numbers as they count their pedometer steps.

In all, the Beaverton School District purchased 500 pedometers, splitting them equally between three elementary schools — Sexton Mountain, Bonny Slope and West TV — as well as giving 120 to Highland Park Middle School students to use in physical education classes. Sexton Mountain’s other two second-grade classes are participating in the pedometer program as well.

Willa Anderson, a student in Martin’s class, said she and fellow students like being able to record their steps the first thing when they get into class. She recently recorded 7,300 steps.

For their part, the second-graders said they are having a great time with the Kiditarod, displaying a vast knowledge of a race that has been running continuously since 1973.

“They have a ceremonial start in Anchorage but actually start in the city of Willow,” second-grader Isaac Jenison pointed out. Isaac, whose team is currently in first place with the most pedometer steps recorded, said he likes the pedometer exercise because it expands the amount of time he gets to move his feet.

“They start with 16 dogs because the dogs have to go a really long way,” another second-grader, Naseem Jaber, said. Naseem noted that dogs sometimes die along the Iditarod Trail because their lungs freeze.

“I like the pedometers because my team is trying to win the race and right now my team is in second place and the pedometers make me active,” said Naseem, whose personal best for steps recorded in one day is 11,042.

“I was excited that we got to use our pedometers for the Iditarod,” said another second-grader, Siena Miller, whose father Joel Miller is the school’s physical education teacher.

“I like it because it makes me active and it helps me stay healthy and it’s fun to check my pedometer with my friend,” she added.

At the same time, students are encouraged to read 1,049 pages (in honor of the mileage the dog sled mushers attain if they finish the race). Siena said she’s completed 283 pages so far, reading from the “Harry Potter” series as well as a non-fiction book, “Iditarod Trail.”

Meanwhile, Martin said students also get a chance to record extra steps in by participating in the Thursday morning Walking School Bus. The venture allows second-grade teachers to meet students at the Murray Boulevard Walmart, and from there, they walk through nearby neighborhoods, handing students their pedometers before escorting them to Sexton Mountain.

“It’s a mile walk, first thing in the morning,” said Martin, pointing out that it takes 20 to 22 minutes to make the trip back to the school.

Students will continue their pedometer/Iditarod project through the end of March.