On November 24, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Oregon’s Beaverton School District launched a districtwide, virtual, five-day Turkey Trot as its official Marathon Kids kickoff event. Students and families from all 34 elementary schools in the district ran or walked along mile-long routes based in their neighborhoods—routes that had been created thoughtfully and specifically for each school, with safety in mind.
Nearly all of the Turkey Trot routes either began or finished at the elementary schools, or passed by them. This was special for Beaverton elementary school students, who haven’t set foot inside their schools since March. Due to the pandemic and rising virus case numbers in the Beaverton area, all Beaverton ISD schools have been 100% virtual.
Physical Activity Helps Students Feel Calmer and More Focused
Beaverton is a suburb of Portland, and its school district isn’t new to Marathon Kids. The district has had Marathon Kids programming and run clubs in its elementary schools for the past three school years. “Kicking off Marathon Kids has been in our plans for a long time,” says Cheryl Wardell, the PE Specialist at William Walker Elementary, who has taught Physical Education for over 32 years. “This is our fourth year of doing it as a district, first as clubs. Then, two years ago, we piloted it in one school, with nine teachers—what would it look like if we said any teacher that wants to provide Marathon Kids as a class could do it?”
That pilot went well, especially once Marathon Kids launched Marathon Kids Connect, its cloud-based physical activity reporting and tracking app. “You can record Brain Boosts now,” says Wardell, “or track your heart-pumping exercise. The data came back from both teachers and kids that they felt more energized, more calm and more focused.”
Based on such promising feedback, the district decided to pilot the program in more schools, focusing especially on schools with outdoor tracks that served students from lower-SES backgrounds. “About seven schools piloted,” says Wardell. “Three of those were all-schools, meaning all teachers jumped on board. That also was successful. With the new changes in the platform and the app, it makes it really easy for a teacher to download and track the miles. That was the game-changer for classroom teachers—that now, it’s not nearly as much work.”
When it comes to setting Marathon Kids goals for her students, Wardell always cites four complete, cumulative marathons by the end of the school year, but “I tend to try to make it very individualized. Our biggest thing is getting to the first marathon. If a kid really wants to go, they have an opportunity to do it all the time at home—and they don’t really have that opportunity at school, where they’re only tracking one or two days a week with their club and during classroom time.” She expects plenty of students will exceed the four-marathon goal by May 2021, especially if they go for daily walks or have parents who are runners and set that example for them.
Pandemic Changed PE Classes, But Marathon Kids Kept Running
While everything slowed down in March 2020, when shutdowns occurred due to the pandemic, Beaverton ISD’s Marathon Kids initiative continued. “With the pandemic and our kids being virtual for the foreseeable future, we decided we would open [the Marathon Kids programming] for parents to be able to track miles from home,” says Wardell. The district established its PE teachers as ambassadors at each elementary school and invited all classroom teachers to track their students’ activity during Brain Bursts or active time during virtual classes. “The biggest thing,” Wardell says, “is really trying to get parents on the platform.”
There has been increasing excitement and involvement from parents thanks to the virtual Turkey Trot. Before the kickoff event began, one school in the district had 200 parents sign on within just the first few days. “They have a robust Marathon Kids running club,” Wardell says about the school. “They did their own video about it for parents, they’re a very community-oriented neighborhood, they do their own neighborhood Turkey Trot… so they are just onboard.” The excitement spread to the district’s teachers and staff as well. One staff member, Kris Damiano, ran all 34 one-mile Marathon Kids Turkey Trot routes in a single day!
For the Turkey Trot, the district made it as easy as possible for families to participate, with no need to register for the event and by providing the routes for each school community. Parents and guardians logged their students’ miles—“which is so exciting,” Wardell points out, “because we can all see it. The parents can see it, the kids can see it, the principal can see it, the teachers can see it…”
Of course, the district’s PE and classroom teachers had already been logging kids’ miles on Marathon Kids Connect throughout the fall semester. Wardell says the Turkey Trot event brought in the rest of the community. “It was kind of our way to say, ‘Hey, come join us,’ to help people feel a part of their school community and part of the larger community by doing the Marathon Kids run in November.”
ABOUT MARATHON KIDS
Marathon Kids is on a mission to get kids moving. The nonprofit organization offers free physical education programming through Marathon Kids Connect, a cloud-based PE and run club management platform that includes a mobile app for digital activity-tracking.