RICHMOND — On Monday and Wednesday mornings from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m., students fill the Richmond Elementary School gymnasium before their classes even begin. The walking, running, relays and games are intended to prepare children for the school day by helping them become more relaxed and focused. 

Named after the founding sponsor, the Reebok athletic shoe and clothing company, the BOKS program is offered free of charge. The school piloted BOKS last spring after health and physical education teacher Kim Daigle and some of the parent volunteers who help run the classes attended a day of training in Massachusetts.

Rose DePietro, who is 9, said she first tried the program last year and loved it.

“I started last year, and then this year, I got in again,” she said. “It helps me feel energized in the morning and it makes me feel a lot better during school. It makes me think a lot better. I like playing all the games, because every day, there’s a different game to play.”

Each program lasts six weeks. The current session, now in its third week, will end before the holidays and another program will begin in the new year.

“We’ll offer it multiple times a year and right now, even though it’s our second time running it, we’re looking to increase our number of volunteers, our parents,” Daigle said. “We’re also looking to possibly do multiple sessions so that we can reach more kids. We’re still building.”

Each session includes several physical activities and ends with Boks Bits, a 10-minute tutorial on health and nutrition.

“BOKS provides a full curriculum and you just have to follow it,” Daigle said. “Each day, the kids get a warm-up, a running activity, they do a relay race and they play a game as well as participate in BOKS bits.”

Ten parent volunteers currently assist with the program, and Daigle said that more volunteers would make it possible for the school to offer additional sessions. Participation is currently limited to 35 children.

“Because there’s only one of us [teachers] and you never know how many parents there’s going to be at each session, we cap at 35,” she said. “The other thing too is, we want to make sure that the safety is always covered, and the more kids you have in smaller environment, the more opportunity there is for accidents to happen.”

In addition to its health benefits, Daigle said the program helped the children grow socially and emotionally.

“It also enhances socially, because we range from kindergarten through fourth grade,” she said. “We don’t do grade-specific. The little ones have an opportunity to work with upperclassmen and to really feel included. There’s a lot of camaraderie, which is great.”

Another feature of the program that the kids enjoy is the absence of competition.

“It’s a participation only. There’s no winning . It’s just to get your wiggles out in the morning and get moving,” Daigle said.

Students can be rewarded in another way, though, by being named “Student of the Week.” The parent volunteers choose the winners for each of the six weeks.

“They exhibit good leadership, are good listeners, are good sports, who are motivational who are on-task and lots of other qualities, we do two a week,” Daigle said. 

During the pilot program last spring, Daigle said teachers reported that the BOKS students were calmer and more focused in class.

“At least for for the first half of the day, the kids were in their seats and calmer and they were ready to work,” she said.