Armand Bayou Elementary Students Are Inspired to Achieve More by Running Together
By Catherine Morris
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After learning about Marathon Kids at a district training last fall, PE teachers Tim Miller and Anne Krenek thought the free, evidence-based physical activity program sounded like a great way to add “a fun system of tracking” to the running program they already had in place with their students at Armand Bayou Elementary School in Houston, Texas.
What they found was that the Marathon Kids program helped less motivated students begin to find their inner athletes. Put simply, they say, “Marathon Kids gives students motivation to keep going”—to challenge themselves to find their own, personal best each day, one step and one mile at a time.
“We always have students who are ready to run and move and play,” says Miller, “while others are more hesitant or resistant. Marathon Kids has helped inspire some of those students to achieve more, because they can see the results of their efforts and buy into the togetherness of helping their class reach their goals. We have seen unmotivated students work harder on running warmup days to help their grade level catch up to another grade level.”
Armand Bayou has a highly diverse student body. Miller and Krenek describe their school as “a close-knit campus with a strong family feel. We are well supported by the neighborhood and families, with family-centered events always having a large turnout and providing tremendous encouragement to our students and school.”
As a group, their students, who range from kindergarteners through fifth-graders, have varying feelings and attitudes about exercise and healthy lifestyles. “Some students and their families are very physically active outside of school,” the coaches say, “involved in extracurricular activities and sports. Other families and students are not as involved or invested in healthy lifestyles and activities.” Still, the school’s special running days, when family members are invited to come run or walk with their students around the track, are always a community favorite.
Daily Physical Activity Is a Fundamental Part of a Healthy Lifestyle
For both Krenek and Miller, daily physical activity is essential to a healthy and well-rounded life. “It is a fundamental part of a healthy lifestyle that impacts every other part of our bodies and lives,” they say. “It plays a huge role in our brains, with physical activity improving our ability to learn and our mental health.”
They bring this value to their students, whose usual warmup before PE class is to run or walk around the school’s outdoor track. Since they started using the Marathon Kids program with their students, they say, “We have found that we like to plan more running warmup days because it allows our students to work toward a goal. Our students are more motivated to run because of the chance to watch their mileage increase.”
The students typically run anywhere from a half-mile to 1.5 miles at a time, depending on the weather as well as the length of the session. The coaches log the students’ mileage using the Marathon Kids Connect app on their smartphones, scanning the students’ ID cards as they complete each lap.
Since the Marathon Kids program emphasizes setting goals and working toward them at one’s own pace, it excites kids as it inspires them to accomplish new milestones. Miller and Krenek say that “Marathon Kids has also provided another leadership opportunity for our students with the Trainer job in PE.” The coaches have established certain classroom jobs for students to fulfill. “The Trainer is the student who passes out and collects the ID cards on the days we run. They retrieve the cards from the case where they are kept and usually ask a friend to help pass them out. It has given our students a focus while we run, a chance to achieve a goal both individually and as part of larger groups.”
At the end of the running session, the rest of the students line up so the Trainers can collect their cards and return them to the box. The Trainer job is highly coveted among the students, who are learning about leadership, responsibility and teamwork by helping their classmates stay organized and accountable. Plus, the coaches say, “Students love having their own unique codes and the feeling of achievement they get from seeing their mileage increase.”
Marathon Kids Connect Makes Tracking and Reporting Fun and Simple
Helping their students track their own progress and mark their milestones is a big part of Krenek and Miller’s running program. The coaches enjoy using the Marathon Kids Connect digital platform to gather and sort the data, so they can display it on a leaderboard in the hallway outside the gym. That way, their students can keep up with individual, class and grade level mileage totals, and take pride in what they are accomplishing, both together and for themselves.
The coaches appreciate the ease with which they can run various reports through the digital platform and pull the data they need for the leaderboard. “It’s easy to sort by grade level or class,” they say. “It is also easy to upload all students at the beginning of the year and then add individual students throughout the year as needed.”
Finding Motivation to Keep Moving Is a Group Effort
In southeast Houston, where Armand Bayou Elementary is located, heat and humidity can sometimes take a toll on even the most motivated of runners. “We try to provide students with different options to keep moving when they are having a hard day with running,” Krenek and Miller say. “We have several trees around our track, so we encourage them to run or jog from shadow to shadow, walking in the shade.”
They also have the students do walk–run intervals, walking for 10 to 20 seconds before running again. “We also have them set small targets, such as running to the corner of the track and then walking for a bit before jogging again.” And running with friends is always good motivation to keep moving along with the pack.
Since the Marathon Kids program counts 20 minutes of heart-pumping activity as equivalent to running one mile, it’s easy to adapt the program as needed to running, walking or any other PE games for elementary students.
For Miller and Krenek, the combination of personal progress and teamwork works well for their students, and it also dovetails with the physical education values they bring to their classes. Using the Marathon Kids digital platform to track each class’s progress, for example, allows their students “to achieve targets as a group while also enjoying some friendly competition with the other classes in their grade level.” The leaderboards they display with data from Marathon Kids Connect “further motivate students as part of a community beyond themselves.”
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