Taking the lead

Messenger photo by Rachel Scofield
Teacher Cindy Morehart joins reading mentor Carol Deuber and students from Herbert Mills Elementary School in Reynoldsburg Nov. 5 as they spend recess walking a 0.5 circuit as part of the school’s "Look Who’s Walking Now" program. In April she will begin to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada.

Reading teacher Cindy Morehart plans to walk from Mexico to Canada followed by the students and staff of Herbert Mills Elementary School.

Laden with a 37-pound backpack, Morehart will hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) – a 2,650-mile scenic path weaving through desserts, dense forests and snowy mountains.

According to the PCT’s Web site, of the 300 who brave the path every year, only 60 percent complete it.

The students will follow their reading teacher thanks to a grant from the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation that will enable Morehart to call the school via a satellite phone. She also will carry a solar panel to charge the phone.

"I will call directly from the trail and it will be broadcast throughout the school," Morehart said.

Her sabbatical begins April 20. The children will chart her progress as she crosses the desserts of Southern California. By the end of the school year she will be climbing the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. She hopes to reach the Canadian border by mid-September – a month earlier than the six months it takes most people to complete the trail.

Fellow teachers have planned math and geography lessons that will chart Morehart’s travels. And on Wednesdays at recess, Morehart has inspired many students to forgo the playground in favor of walking a 0.5-mile circuit.

At the beginning of the school year Morehart created the "Look Who’s Walking Now" program. She split all the students and staff into three teams representing the states through which she will hike – California, Oregon and Washington.

"The goal is to keep the kids moving," Morehart said. "Raising their energy level will make their hearts happy. Children are more obese than in the past. They sit in front of the TV and play video games instead of getting fresh air."

Each week Morehart joins the walkers and invites a special guest.

In October, the school held a "wacky walking week" in which the students and their parents were invited to walk before school. Despite having to "dodge raindrops" more than 70 students participated.

"It’s good exercise," said third-grader Anna Hurt from team Oregon. "I like to walk with the guest walkers and ask them questions like ‘where do you hang out?’"

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