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Hill City Grade School Students Use Marathon Kids to Find Their Inner Athlete

By MK Editor, May 23, 2021

This year, the entire student body of Hill City Grade School—199 students in kindergarten through sixth grade—participates in Marathon Kids. After the last school year being disrupted by periods of remote learning, Physical Education teacher Kaitlyn Davis could not be happier to run together in person with her students once again.

Davis first came across Marathon Kids when searching for ways to keep her students active during the COVID-19 pandemic. She was especially looking for a program she could have in place if her students had to return to online learning.

With its free, cloud-based physical activity tracking and reporting platform that was simple for both educators and parents to use, Marathon Kids fit the bill. Best of all, Davis’s students loved the program. “They got very excited knowing how many miles they ran during the course of the year.”

Marathon Kids Helps Kids Find Their Inner Athlete

Hill City is a rural northwest Kansas town of just 1,500 residents. Fortunately, Davis says, “most of our students are very active. They spend as much time as possible playing outside at the park, riding bikes, shooting baskets or walking around town with friends. So getting them to exercise is not too hard.”

Her students start each P.E. class by running laps around the basketball court, which they scan into Marathon Kids Connect. Davis also uses the app to enter their time spent doing heart-pumping activities like playing soccer. (The Marathon Kids program counts 20 minutes of heart-pumping physical activity as equivalent to one mile, and challenges kids to run, jog, walk or move the equivalent of four marathons—a total of 104.8 miles—over the course of a season.)

Davis also uses the app to enter their time spent doing heart-pumping activities like playing soccer.

Last year, Davis’s students averaged a full marathon by the end of the school year. This year, she’s using several different strategies to help them build their running skills, with the goal of covering even more miles before the end of the year.

“I do a running test at the beginning of the year,” she says, “where students go as far as they can without stopping.” They also do occasional popsicle relays in class, where students earn popsicle sticks each time they run around the basketball court. “Then they sit and count how many sticks they have, and figure how many scans each student has earned.”

The mileage tallying is part of what makes it fun for the students. “They want to do the math and see how many times they have to run in order to hit a mile,” Davis says. “It helps to keep them active while also working toward their goal. The kids are getting excited to see how many miles they can complete by the end of the year. I am hoping this year we have them get to two marathons.”

Marathon Kids Gets Kids Moving

“Physical activity is important for everyone,” Davis says. “Its long-term benefits for our mental and physical state are amazing and incredible.” She talks with her students throughout the school year about the importance of exercise for improving their entire well-being.

Still, every kid’s motivation flags sometimes, even those from a community where physical activity is the norm. Davis uses leaderboards to keep her students’ motivation and engagement high. “I put the leader board up each week for them to see, and once a month I put the whole school up on the wall for everyone to see where they are. When students hit their milestones, we stop and celebrate those big accomplishments.”

She also encourages kids to support each other through a tough run. “When I notice students struggling, I have a friend go over to them, to help them want to finish. I also encourage students by reminding them that once they get done with the running, they get to move on to the unit we are learning and play.” She also makes it a point to run with her students “to encourage them to want to continue or finish running.”

Marathon Kids Helps Kids of All Abilities Unlock Their Potential

Both regular physical activity and community support can play an essential role in getting and staying healthy. This became especially apparent to Davis last summer, when one of her students was diagnosed with cancer. While he was out of school receiving treatments, Davis asked him to keep a log of any exercise he was able to do. “He only did exercise when he felt strong enough to do so. Then I would calculate his miles for him, so he felt like he was still a part of our physical education classroom.”

Now, the student is back in school with his classmates. “We just found out that he has made it through all his treatments,” says Davis, “and is cancer free.”

Daily physical activity is important in itself, but Davis believes modeling physical activity for children as a lifetime value is equally important. Kids are meant to be active, and active adults are better off, too. Davis is deliberate about building a personal connection with her students and showing them how she incorporates regular physical activity into her own life.

“At the beginning of each school year,” she says, “my students and I spend time sharing things about ourselves. I make sure the students know that I play volleyball in different leagues around our town, as well as high jump on the weekends in the spring. They all love to ask how I did or if we won. I think this is important for students to see. They also know I have three big dogs and I take them out on bike rides or walks in the evenings. I think them seeing me also helps to motivate them to want to continue.”


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