Kids Running Starts with Goal Setting

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Kids Running Starts with Goal Setting


Chandler Dean and Isabel Baez are first year P.E. teachers at Zilker Elementary in Austin, TX. Zilker Elementary is home to a diverse, yet close-knit community of students, parents, and educators and enrolls over 400 students per year.

Both Coaches Dean and Baez knew from a young age that they wanted to be physical education teachers to educate and motivate kids the same way they were as students. As children, they discovered a passion for physical activity through dance and various other athletics and found themselves excelling in their respective P.E. classes. 

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Making Large Classes Manageable for Smaller Teams and Gyms

Zilker Elementary first implemented Marathon Kids due to a growing interest in the program across Austin ISD administration. Coach Baez is not new to the Marathon Kids program and even used it as a 1st grade classroom teacher with her students in 2021. Her students were able to run during WOW time (Working Out for Wellness, a district-wide initiative implemented to help Austin ISD students meet their daily required minutes of physical activity) or during recess. This helped students with their physical activity development and minutes even outside of P.E. classes.

At Austin ISD schools, students participate in P.E. classes every day as a whole grade level. This posed a problem to the Zilker Elementary P.E. department due to the school’s smaller gym size and their 3 person P.E. team. However, the Marathon Kids program helped alleviate some of the stress of accommodating a whole grade level during P.E. time. 

"It is impossible for us to keep the whole grade level in our small gym and Marathon Kids has been super awesome to take a group out of the gym and get laps in. Our TA (Coach Ragland) has been a great help monitoring the Marathon Kids program helps relieve the large class sizes for Coach Baez and I. We would not be able to handle this year if we didn't have the Marathon Kids program and the help from our TA.”

Different Goals, Same Lifelong Health Benefits

Although some students are more excited to run than others, Coaches Dean and Baez say their students enjoy their time with the Marathon Kids program regardless of their personal goals: “Most of the students like getting to do Marathon Kids. Some kids always try really hard to get as many laps as they possibly can and set different goals for themselves and take it really seriously. Other kids enjoy the social aspect of getting to walk and talk with friends. We always encourage both because running (or) walking with friends is a social lifelong physical activity.”

To help motivate their students, the P.E. teachers publicly recognize runners of the week as well as a runner of the month. Every week, Coach Ragland chooses a runner of the week based on three main criteria including overall effort, improvement, and goal accomplishments. At the end of every month, together the coaches select a runner of the month based on which student showed integrity and grit consistently throughout the month. That student is then recognized at a school assembly and is given an award from the P.E. department.

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How Goal Setting Can Be an Exciting Event

Coaches Dean and Baez couldn’t be happier to see how the Marathon Kids program is motivating their students to run and stay active similar to how they were when they were kids. “We have a student whose Mom told Coach Baez that her son is super excited about Marathon Kids and wants to be a runner. He asked his mom to get him a Fitbit to keep better track of his fitness goals.”

Overall, Coaches Dean and Baez value the amazing benefits that the Marathon Kids program offers. They hype up the program every chance they get and love that the data they receive from the program allows them to encourage and recognize students in class and at assemblies. “We want running (and walking) to become a lifelong physical activity for students and encourage them to set goals.”

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