Fit Tip: Get Fit By Escaping Zombies!!
If you have kids in public school, like I do, back-to-school has turned into back-to-fundraising. I’m a personal trainer, so rather than selling cookies, one year I helped run a Halloween-themed obstacle course fundraiser. This was a huge success at our school because everyone won: The corporate sponsors got good publicity, the kids got to exercise in costume, the PTO was happy because it cost nothing to put on, and the kids won again because 100% of the money raised went towards their academic wish list. Shoot, even the volunteers had fun dressing up like zombies and chasing small children.
Here’s a step-by-step breakdown if you’d like to try it at your school.
Obstacle Course Overview
The focus is on fun, safe fitness. Obstacles should include things the kids can climb over, under, around and through using different planes of motion.
We divided the course into two time blocks (younger/older). Younger students just focused on getting through the Halloween-themed obstacles. We encouraged parents and older siblings to run with those children who needed a little extra help. (You would not believe how many parents wanted to run the course on their own!)
The second group was just for older kids. They ran the same obstacle course, only zombies (in this case, high school kids from the theater club) were trying to tag them. If tagged, the child had to do 5 jumping jacks as a penalty. From a fitness standpoint zombies are great because they add an element of fear, which gives rise to explosive plyometric movements to escape “danger”. From a practical standpoint the jumping jacks slowed down the runners so they weren’t bumping into each other.
Time & Materials & Budget
Budget: We had a budget of nothing (this was public school) so we had to get creative. Talk with your PE teacher to see what’s available and only use those things. Ask the art teacher to give you the best student artwork to hang as decorations.
Fundraising: Work with local business leaders to sponsor each obstacle, and have fun with it! For example, we had a mechanic shop sponsor the tire flip obstacle. A chiropractor sponsored an obstacle where we had kids drag a bag of plastic skeleton bones across the finish line. Ask for input – local entrepreneurs have quite the imagination.
Time: I won’t count the time spent at PTO meetings to talk about potential sponsors. The actual time to set up the obstacle course in the gym was four hours, and it was set up by two moms and the PE teacher. Taking the obstacle course down was really fast, like an hour. There were three moms and two kids helping.
Test Drive: We set up the obstacle course the night before the carnival and had our kids do a test run of the course so we could see where there would be traffic flow problems and adjust the course accordingly. We also discovered which obstacles needed more supervision and which ones needed modification for younger kids. I highly recommend doing this step.
- Pumpkin Patch Walk Around
Pick up a plastic pumpkin, walk around a cone and put the pumpkin back at start line. For a more challenging obstacle, add weight to the pumpkin.
- Tip Toe Past the Scarecrow
Walk through the agility ladders. For a bigger challenge hop on one foot.
- Ghost Zoom
Sit on a 4 wheeled scooter and weave in and out of bowling pins decorated like ghosts.
- Rope Climbs
Climb a regular rope or knotted rope. This is too hard for some kids, so just let them attempt it and move on. Other kids are little ninja warriors and will try to climb to the ceiling, so stop them midway for safety precautions. Also, we had two helpers and mats underneath the ropes.
- Escape the Spider Web
Wrap yarn around three sturdy objects to make a “spider web” that kids can climb under or through.
- Frankenstein Tire Flips
Flip the tires from a mat to a wall and back. If this is too hard for the little kids, let them roll it.
- Drag a Bag of Bones
We filled a mesh bag with plastic skeleton bones and two weighted bowling pins that blended in with the bones. Kids dragged it around a cone and back.
- Li’l Monster Roll
Kids do a somersault down a cheese mat. Some kids were afraid of this, so we let them roll on their bellies or slide on their bottoms. Make sure you put a responsible volunteer here for safety reasons.
- Escape Witch Mountain Rock Wall
Our gym has a rock wall in the corner. Kids who were good at this scaled the wall from one side to the other. Some kids got stuck, so we said they could just climb straight up and an adult helped them get down.
Details like Traffic Flow & Safety
- Don’t put too many obstacles in there because the kids will trip over each other.
- We had 1-3 volunteers at each obstacle.
- Explain Traffic Lanes and What to Expect. The Greeter explains, “You’re #1 and you’re #2. You will be #1 and #2 throughout the race. Stay in your number’s lane.”
- Put directional arrows between obstacles so the kids know where they are supposed to go next.
- Timing. Wait until the first kids get to obstacle 4 before you start the next two so they aren’t tripping over each other.
- Encourage parents to run with/help their kids through the obstacles, plus they'll have fun too.
- No food or loose items. Some kids were sucking on lollipops, make sure they spit them out before running.
- Liability Release. Each school has their own policy about these things, so run it past your school administrator about this.
There you have it! Fitness (and fundraising) can be fun.