Carl Schurz Elementary Students Find Their Inner Athletes with Marathon Kids
By Catherine Morris
Coach Shannon Spence teaches PE at Carl Schurz Elementary School in New Braunfels ISD. New Braunfels is a small but rapidly growing town in the Texas Hill Country region, roughly halfway between Austin and San Antonio. Both a river town and a live music town, New Braunfels is home to the oldest dance hall in Texas. Its German roots run deep, and it has a large Hispanic population as well. It’s a diverse, friendly and eclectic place.
With so much natural beauty and wide-open outdoor space, it’s also an active town, and seven of the nine elementary schools in New Braunfels ISD are currently participating with Marathon Kids. As of the first week of December 2021, the district’s 1,297 participating students have conquered 7,614 miles together. That’s an incredible total of 291 marathons and 152,777 active minutes this school year—and counting!
Some 400 or so of those students are in Coach Spence’s classes at Carl Schurz Elementary. “While this is my first year with Marathon Kids,” Spence says, “our school has been running for several years.” Her students run every week in PE, starting with a warm-up in the gym before heading outside together to the school’s one-eighth-mile track.
“Our kids can run or walk,” Spence says, “but they must complete eight laps before getting to choose an activity they’d like to play.” That means all students cover at least one mile each session, “but we have students who choose to run farther. Those students are either competitive with themselves or with other runners and want to be on the top of the leaderboard.”
Marathon Kids Connect Helps Kids Find Their Inner Athlete
That natural competitive urge comes in handy in keeping kids motivated to move—especially this school year. With everyone back in the classroom after remote-learning during the pandemic, Coach Spence has found it a challenge to get back in the groove with her students. “My classes were small last year, and now I am back to much larger classes.”
Fortunately, Spence has always made it a point to find creative ways of keeping students engaged, and she is no stranger to using technology to support her PE classes. From fitness trackers and heart rate monitors to wellness and workout apps, technology is an integral part of many adults’ fitness regimens. Believing it would benefit kids to begin using technology in PE as well, Spence began incorporating iPads in class in the 2017–2018 school year, having students pair up and use the tablets to time each other during activity stations.
With iPads already available for use, it was a simple shift to using Marathon Kids Connect a few years later. “The free digital platform enticed me to give the program a try,” Spence says. She and her teacher’s aide printed Runner ID cards for their students, so the kids could scan their QR codes each time they completed a new lap on the track.
Daily Physical Activity Supports the Whole Child, Whole School, Whole Community
The Marathon Kids Connect Scanning app helped Coach Spence capture and organize data about her students’ physical activity efforts. That, in turn, enabled her to use the data to boost her students’ motivation to keep pushing toward new goals and milestones.
“I created a bulletin board where we celebrate our success using the data and reports from the digital platform,” Spence says. “Kids get excited to see who the top runners, grade and class are. We also give out beads for the students’ lanyards for every mile they complete, with rewards getting more exciting as the miles increase.”
Occasionally, her students get tired of walking or running their mile. When that happens, Spence says, “I’ll encourage them by walking with them.” As a PE teacher, she says, “I feel like it’s an expectation for me to not only teach about active lifestyles but also show the students how I stay active as an adult.”
Spence also makes it a point to remind her students regularly about why they are moving their bodies in PE class: “To be healthy and active.” This dovetails with the Marathon Kids mission of helping kids improve their entire wellbeing through daily physical activity, thereby building the foundation to be active and healthy for a lifetime.
“Our kids can run or walk, [and some students] are either competitive with themselves or with other runners and want to be on the top of the leaderboard.”
Marathon Kids Helps Educators Empower Kids of All Abilities
Coach Spence loves instilling the joy of running and walking in her students. It’s gratifying, she says, to “hear them talk about walking and running outside of school with their families.” She has also been happy to see former students move on to cross country at the high school level.
One student, in particular, stands out in her mind; he has been in class since kindergarten. “I’ve loved watching how much he enjoys running and earning prizes. Students that you don’t think will be competitive, are, when they see the leaderboards posted.”
These are the kinds of things that let Spence know she’s making a positive impact as an educator. For other educators who are thinking about implementing Marathon Kids programming with their students, Spence says, “GO FOR IT! The initial setup can be intimidating, but with the help of the folks at Marathon Kids, I knew I had support.”
Make Marathon Kids Your School's Running Partner