“Here she is doing math in P.E.! Our math teachers love it!” Dee Dee Wright, principal of East Elementary School raved about the latest incentive to get students on their feet and active. Students in Kindergarten through third grade at East Elementary spent two days shopping in the new Active Store, trading miles for sports equipment. Every Friday, students run during their Physical Education (PE) time, and earn .10 cents in Active Store credit for every lap around the field. The Early Bird Running Club allows students to run on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 7:00 AM – 7:20 AM for an extra opportunity to start their day with fresh air and miles earned.
“We have about fifteen faithful Early Bird runners, and those were able to purchase bigger items,” said Kim Harvey, the PE teacher at East. “The other kids are seeing what they can do.” Students who attend the Early Bird club had earned anywhere from $15 to $22 dollars of Active Store credit, and all students were given a chance to peruse the store, choose to buy an item with their money earned, or save their accrued money for the store at the end of the next nine-week grading period. Items available were active games or equipment, such as jump ropes, frisbees, hula hoops, rubber balls (basketballs, footballs, etc.) and electronic floating sharks. “It’s a little bit of math, a little bit of finance,” Harvey said. “I’ve been talking to them about saving. A lot of kids had more money to spend, but they chose to save their money for next time.”
The Active Store idea began when Harvey heard a fellow math teacher’s call for action. “Kids were not understanding currency,” Harvey said. “So I thought, let me find a way to help. In PE we play games and we add stuff, but I thought there had to be something I could do to help.” Harvey’s early morning running club rang an alarm. “We are a part of the Hundred-Mile Club based in California. I called them up and we went over ideas on how I could possibly do it.” Harvey now has her 276 students run every Friday. Each child receives a popsicle stick to carry in hand to count each lap earned. Harvey spent time on the weekends adding up and counting popsicle sticks. That has changed now, thanks to a technology grant awarded by the Brownwood Education Foundation (BEF). With the grant money, Harvey ordered an EZ Scan system. Students will receive an identification card with a unique QR code to carry during their activity. The child will scan the card into the system on a device like an iPad, and the system will log each mile for each student. “It automatically uploads their information,” Harvey said. “They will love it! They won’t have to use the popsicle sticks. They don’t want to touch them.” The EZ Scan system is being shipped and Harvey hopes to implement the system in the coming weeks. “The goal is to teach them some math, but to also keep them motivated so they can earn something,” Harvey said. “They work harder.”
The Brownwood Education Foundation approved the grant for the Count Your Miles program and Harvey immediately got to work, ordering the EZ Scan system and equipment for the Active Store. “We were able to do this because of the Education Foundation,” Harvey said. “Equipment is expensive. If they can have it at home, they can be active. Everything I purchased gets them active. There are a lot of things I could have bought where they can just sit around using it; I want them to get outside and play at their home, maybe with a sibling, or even their parents.”
Harvey has seen a shift in her students since school began, as excitement built. With each lap, her students recognized they were doing work that built up into something bigger. “They are encouraging each other,” Harvey said. “They recognize not only how much money they are earning, but how much more they need for a specific goal. Their whole work ethic is just going through the roof. The ones who might not have been so excited about the walking or running, they are really getting the hang of it and that it has a purpose, and they get to earn something at the end.” Harvey reminds her students of the goal for PE class and Early Birds – to get moving and to be healthy. The Early Bird club allows students to wake up, focus, and begin the day with movement and intentionality. “They are learning to love being active,” Harvey said. “It’s not all about running. If they want to walk, skip, or jog, just get moving, that’s the whole thought. It’s not so much the competition part. I want them to learn to be healthy for life. They have pride and confidence in themselves that they can do it, and that’s a big deal.”