George Adkins teaches PE at River Ridge Elementary in Evans, Georgia. Together with his colleague Laura Paulos, he heads up the school’s Marathon Kids runners, a group of nearly 700 kindergarteners through fifth-graders who call themselves the River Ridge Racers.
“We have students who come from all corners of the globe, all socio-economic levels and various family make-ups,” Adkins says. “This is partially due to a large military base and medical field in our area. Activities before and after school get students moving either inside or outside on a daily basis. We have two recess periods each day for students to run and play. They have a love for PE and enjoy learning different ways to make and keep themselves healthy.”
MARATHON KIDS CONNECT MAKES LAP TRACKING A SNAP
River Ridge began holding a running track day 14 years ago. “We used coffee stir sticks to track the students’ laps, since they were plastic. For record keeping, we used Excel, which proved to be a lot of work—transferring students’ names to different classes each year and clearing the slate. It was work just trying to keep up with when a student earned an award.”
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Adkins knew he and Coach Paulos would have to change how they ran PE. “I realized handing out sticks was not going to work for keeping track records, so I put out a question to other PE teachers around the country on a blog I read, and a teacher in Wisconsin responded. She gave me information about Marathon Kids to research.”
Coach Adkins says the program is “the best I have found due to the ease of use, the data that is available on each student, and the customer service/technical support, besides being a free program. I have shared it within my county, and now we have another school that has started using the program.”
Depending on their ages, the River Ridge Racers typically cover one-and-a-half to three miles at a time during their track time. Adkins and Paulos use Marathon Kids Connect to track the students’ mileage on their iPads and iPhones. “The ease of managing 694 students in the program has been a breeze. I can do it quickly, replace their names/QR codes instantly, and see which students need more encouragement to increase their effort on the track.”
FIND A PHYSICAL ACTIVITY YOU ENJOY, AND DO IT FOR LIFE
Adkins has mostly in-person students this year, with just a handful of students learning from home due to the pandemic. He says their numbers will increase in January 2021, when more students return to in-person class. “Keeping classes separated from each other is a challenge,” he says, “along with sanitizing and masks.” But he and Coach Paulos are making it work.
When running gets tough, Adkins tells his students to keep moving and pressing onward. “Most of them want to keep up with their fellow classmates. We don’t let them sit down to rest, but encourage them to keep moving by walking until they feel better. Soon they start running again.” He also motivates them with shout-outs and awards when they hit distance milestones. “We also have a wall poster with the grade leaders for the month.”
Adkins has noticed several benefits in his students since starting the Marathon Kids program. “They’re more alert in classes and eager to go run on the track. They’re disappointed when it rains and they can’t go run laps.” He says obesity rates are high among Georgia children, so he and his colleagues try to instill healthy lifestyle lessons starting in kindergarten. “Artwork, posters and demonstrations help students see the importance of health and fitness. I want them to understand that fitness is a lifelong activity, so I tell them they should find something like running that they can do and enjoy.”
He recommends that other teachers and coaches give Marathon Kids a try. “This program is not intimidating, and will greatly help you and your runners enjoy the activity and increase their efforts.”