MIDDLE TOWNSHIP — Toe tokens are a much sought after commodity in the halls of Middle Township Elementary School No. 2.
The tokens — small, colorful plastic trinkets that easily attach to shoe laces — are the reward given to students who do well in the school's Mileage Club.
"We like the toe tokens," 10-year-old Alexa DiPalantino said as she and some of her fourth-grade classmates stopped Tuesday to talk outside the school during recess.
Alexa and her friends Madyson Sweitzer, 9, and Dakota Ludman, 10, paused just long enough to talk about the club before heading off to complete their next lap around the school.
Physical education teacher Michelle Hockenberry said the Mileage Club got its start about 10 to 12 years ago and has continued as a way to get students to exercise while learning about the value of setting goals.
During their 15-minute recess, students can run or walk a quarter-mile lap that takes them around the school building.
For each lap, they get a hole punch on an index card used to track their progress, and when 20 holes are punched — the equivalent of five miles — they earn a toe token.
Students who reach 50, 75 and even 100 miles by the school year's end also get special recognition on a mini-hall of fame near the gymnasium, and all students receive a certificate of achievement for their efforts.
But the prizes aren't the only reward.
"I like getting exercise," Madyson said.
Hockenberry said participation varies, with some teachers requiring students to run at least one lap at recess and others leaving it to the students' discretion.
The program, she said, gives the children more exercise while encouraging them to reach certain milestones along the way.
"It's great because it teaches them to set goals," Hockenberry said.
The toe tokens — which come in everything from plain rectangular shapes to ones that look like tiny versions of a human heart — offer incentive, but Hockenberry said the children in grades three to five don't resist the chance to run.
"At this age level, they're very active. They definitely love to move. It's fun for them," she said.
A lot of students will reach 25 miles, but the higher numbers are less common. Only a handful of students have earned the medal that accompanies the 100 mile total, she said.
Fourth-grade teacher Cyndi Arnold encourages students to participate as an alternative to playing kickball or just talking during recess.
“It’s a way to stay active,” Arnold said.
Fourth-grade teacher Tory Magnusson requires each of her students to complete at least one lap at recess as a way to encourage aerobic exercise.
She said students that become winded after one lap at the start of the year can complete the lap easily by the school year’s end.
“It becomes part of the routine,” she said.
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