Oak Hills Terrace Elementary Students Are Developing a Love of Running

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Oak Hills Terrace Elementary Students Are Developing a Love of Running

ByCatherine Morris

Miguel Maldonado taught third and fourth grades for 17 years before becoming a PE teacher. “I had been coaching my sons in their youth sports for about eight years,” Maldonado recalls. “I loved coaching, and went through the process of becoming certified. I was a certified coach for about four years before making the switch to being a PE coach.”

He is now in his first year of teaching Physical Education at Oak Hills Terrace Elementary School in San Antonio’s Northside school district. He also co-coaches an after-school Marathon Kids running club with his colleague Adrian Valdez, an SST teacher at the school. They have 79 runners in second through fifth grades participating in the club.

Maldonado and Valdez set his app to one-third of a mile, the length of the track their students use on running club days. “Every time the kids come by, we scan their cards. The laps are tracked by the app, and then we are able to see how many miles the kids ran.”

Marathon Kids Connect—Designed with the Physical Educator in Mind

Maldonado is a first-year PE teacher, but he’s had experience with hosting running clubs in the past. “In my previous school, we had a running club. We used an app, but kept track of everything through paper and pencil.” Helping his students develop a love of running was rewarding, but the administrative aspect took a lot of time.

“When we started the running club this year,” Maldonado says, “Mr. Valdez showed me the Marathon Kids Connect app. He had used the app in previous years, and I was very impressed with what it had to offer. It’s easy to use, set up and get data from.”

Maldonado and Valdez set the app to one-third of a mile, the length of the track their students use on running club days. “Every time the kids come by, we scan their cards. The laps are tracked by the app, and then we are able to see how many miles the kids ran.”

The co-coaches regularly marvel together at the kids’ cumulative mileage at the end of their running sessions. “Mr. Valdez will say, ‘Hey look, our kids just ran two or three marathons.’ 79 kids running a mile each really adds up!”

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Marathon Kids Helps Kids Develop Leadership Skills and Find Their Inner Athlete

Across the country, sedentary behavior is at an all-time high. This trend has only increased since the Covid-19 pandemic began. After periods of remote learning, children are returning to school overweight and unhealthy.

Through nearly two decades of working with children, Maldonado has had a front-row seat to this shift in kids’ attitudes toward physical activity. “Students, in general, are a little more lethargic than they used to be. They are not wanting to be as active as they used to be.” This is one of his primary challenges as a PE teacher, and one that Marathon Kids is helping him address.

“Having this club is definitely helping some students move and get healthy,” he says. “The kids are excited to come to the running club after school. It gives the students an opportunity to get back to what life was like pre-Covid.”

Maldonado and Valdez divided their running club into five groups and designated a student captain for each group. “It’s awesome to see these students of ours take on the leadership role,” Maldonado says. “The captains are chosen from those students who have been in the running club since they were in second grade, so they are committed. They are learning so much more than just running and exercise.”

The group meets twice a week after school, and they always start with a 15-minute warm-up. Then, they’re ready to run on the “track”—which is actually just a trail mowed in the grass by Mr. Valdez. “It works,” Maldonado says with a laugh...well, except when it doesn’t. “On days where it rains in the morning and is sunny in the afternoon, we still have to stay in the gym because the ground is still wet. If we had a track, it would be dry by the afternoon.”

Maldonado recently applied for a grant from the Needham Education Foundation in hopes of installing a useable track on the Oak Hills Terrace campus. Until then, the grassy trail suffices. “The kids run and walk to complete their laps. They usually run three to five laps around the trail, which is one to one-and-a-half miles at a time.”

When Kids See Results, They Are Motivated to Keep Moving

After his paper-and-pencil experience with the running club at his previous school, Maldonado appreciates how easy it is to use Marathon Kids Connect. “We usually use two devices to help scan faster, and I really like that it syncs the information together when everything is uploaded. We get one set of information, rather than having one set for one phone and one set for the other.”

Maldonado also likes using the data from Marathon Kids Connect to keep his students motivated. Seeing their progress inspires them to continue pushing toward new goals and milestones. With data from the app, he says, “We are able to see who our top runners are and let the kids know which group is leading. This really helps motivate the kids to run more.”

Maldonado and Valdez always make sure to get moving with the students and to communicate their high expectations. “We get kids excited to run and be active because we, as the sponsors, are excited to work with them.”

The running gets tough at times, and the kids sometimes want to stop and sit. Maldonado and Valdez encourage them to keep going. “We have water bottles for them, and we tell them it is okay to slow down and walk instead of running, but you have to keep moving. We have set high expectations, and they are rising to meet them.”

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Active Kids Are Happier Kids

Maldonado reports that his students are excited to be involved in their Marathon Kids running club. “We know that it is helping the kids be present in class because they don’t want to miss running club,” he says. “About once a month, we give the kids Fun Friday. If they are motivated and meet the expectations for the month, students are able to earn time to play on the playground, or play tag. We try to keep them moving even when they are just playing.”

Maldonado believes physical activity should be important to everyone. “In today’s society, unfortunately, kids are spending way too much time in front of the screen. The benefits I see with our running club are that kids are more motivated to run. They are thinking about it more. Even during regular PE class, they are talking about running club.”

For others who are considering using Marathon Kids programming, Maldonado’s advice is simple: “Do it. Start the program and see how easy it is to navigate, and see how much your school and community can get out of it.”

Make Marathon Kids Your School's Running Partner