Glenwood Elementary School Students Discover a Love of Running

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Glenwood Elementary School Students Discover a Love of Running

By Catherine Morris

For Valerie Siegrist, daily physical activity is a no-brainer. “The benefits are hard to ignore,” she says. “Having a healthy lifestyle combats the risk of certain health conditions and diseases, improves energy, and boosts mood.”

Siegrist teaches PE at Glenwood Elementary School in Vestal, New York. A town of over 28,000 residents, Vestal is nestled between the Susquehanna River and the Pennsylvania border.

“Our school community is amazing,” Siegrist says. “Everyone is super supportive of one another.” Even in the closest-knit communities, there’s always room for positive change, and for Siegrist, an unexpected change for the better came about when the Covid-19 pandemic forced her and her co-teacher, Ashley Tyler, to get creative with their PE curriculum during their school’s remote- and hybrid-learning phases.

Running Brings a Close-Knit School Community Even Closer

It was in the midst of the pandemic that Siegrist and Tyler began using Marathon Kids with their kindergarten through fifth-grade classes. “I was drawn to it because it was a user-friendly program that made it easy to track the mileage of our school community,” Siegrist says. “Having multiple assistant coaches for the program is a feature that was very important to us, so that participants’ ID cards could be scanned throughout the school day.”

When the co-teachers launched their Marathon Kids run club, Siegrist says, “we used it as the perfect opportunity for change in a positive way for our school community. Starting during Covid with restrictions actually got students moving more through the hallways, and increased that visual contact amongst students and staff that had been missing in person the previous year.”

Glenwood Elementary has an outdoor running route around the playground that measures two-tenths of a mile. The PE teachers have also mapped out an indoor route that is a little over a third of a mile long.

“Students complete laps for approximately 10 to 15 minutes every other day as a PE warmup,” Siegrist says. “They typically average at least three and up to seven laps outside, in the time allotted as a warmup. They are also able to complete laps during class breaks or recess, or when intramurals are offered.”

Marathon Kids Connect Makes Tracking Kids’ Active Time a Breeze

The Glenwood Bear Tracks Club, as Siegrist and Tyler christened their run club, now has 340 students actively participating. Together, they have already covered over 12,000 so far this school year—and they have a little friendly competition from their teachers and other school staff members as well.

“The staff have embarked in a friendly competition of completing laps,” Siegrist says. “The students see the staff walking and are encouraged to complete more laps as well. If the staff is excited, students follow suit. Our parents and GSCA have also been super supportive the entire time we have implemented this program.”

Siegrist and Tyler, along with several other Glenwood staff members, have the Marathon Kids Connect app on their phones so they can easily scan students’ laps and enter their active minutes, no matter when they complete them throughout the day.

“I love the ease of quickly scanning the QR code so students are not delayed when they’re completing laps,” Siegrist says. She and her co-teacher use the Marathon Kids digital platform in other ways, too. “We are currently using it to download weekly mileage reports for program incentives, monthly incentives, and the weekly staff Top 10 runners. Being able to download multiple reports is also a neat feature to see the leaders by grade, overall, specific month, and so on.”

Reaching New Milestones Motivates Kids to Keep Moving

The run club is now in its second year, and Siegrist definitely plans to continue it for the foreseeable future. “Having free digital lap tracking makes Marathon Kids a perfect fit to continue,” she says.

Motivating the students to challenge themselves and find their inner athletes has not been difficult. “It has become the culture at Glenwood to be active every day,” Siegrist says, “as we use the Marathon Kids program as a PE warmup, a brain break from class, and a daily option at recess. Students use this time socially as well, and can walk or run with a friend. We have found this program to be highly effective at motivating students to be physically active. They actually ask to run, and love the opportunity to gain miles towards their goal.”

Siegrist’s primary challenge with her runners? They love running, but they also love incentives and gain a lot of motivation from them—but these tokens and other items aren’t free. As more kids began joining the run club when the students returned to in-person learning at school, Siegrist and Tyler got creative and held a coin drive in order to keep providing these tokens that keep the kids pushing toward new goals.

“Each student has a lanyard with a QR card,” Siegrist says. “They use their lanyards to collect tokens. The Glenwood Bear Tracks Club has mileage incentives for bigger prizes as well as foot tokens for completing every five miles. Students proudly wear their lanyards with the mileage tokens and monthly incentives for others to see in the school community.”

She also uses the reports generated with Marathon Kids Connect to create leaderboards that keep the kids engaged. “We have a display wall as students enter the building. Their name goes on the wall starting at 25 miles, and up. Our current leader has almost reached 175 miles this school year!”

The Best Motivation Is Intrinsic

Like most kids, Glenwood Elementary students love tangible rewards for their running accomplishments, but much of their motivation comes from within as they realize how much they are able to accomplish, one step and one mile at a time.

Siegrist recalls a student named Sam, who loved running and loved the incentives he received for reaching each new milestone. “The Bear Tracks Club was a huge motivator for him!” she says. “He enjoyed exercise so much more because he knew he was reaching for the goal of the foot tokens on his lanyard.”

Helping kids develop a love for running is any PE teacher’s hope, and it’s also part of the Marathon Kids mission. One of Siegrist’s first-graders at Glenwood says of the Bear Tracks Club, “I have fun. It’s helped me run and walk farther than I thought I could, and I go faster every time.”

Another of Siegrist’s students says she is able to run a lot more than she used to. “She has found a passion with running that she didn’t know she had,” Siegrist says. “Not only does she want to run more, she’s excited about it.”

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