MEDFORD, Ore. -- The students in Mr. Carson's class run every week, twice a week, at least 1 mile each. They started back in January and not too long ago they got a special surprise to help them track their journey.
"When we got it some people had tears and I was kind of getting teary-eyed too because we didn't know Mr. Carson was doing this for all of us," said 4th grader, Jorgia.
Mr. Carson had put together a donation page on choosedonors.org asking for donations so that he could buy each one of his 28 students a Fitbit.
"When I set up the thing for the Fitbit I wasn’t 100% sure when it would happen or if it would happen. It happened within a week so that was great!" said Kyle Carson, a 4th grade teacher at Orchard Hills Elementary School and the organizer of the Oregon Trail Run.
Mr. Carson started out making tally marks for every student every time they completed a lap and then marking their time on his watch. Now with the new Fitbits the students are directly involved in tracking their mileage. At the end of every run they write down how many steps and miles they completed and then they map out how far they went on the Oregon trail. Each student has his own personal map of the trail with their own distances.
Mr. Carson says that the bi-weekly runs have done much more than help him teach history.
"They're learning a lot more about commitment too. We say, no matter what, if it's raining, if it's cold, if the sprinklers are on, if it's hot, we will always come out. I think it's good for them to learn that being dedicated to something and working towards a goal," he explained that for many of the students this is one of their first long-term goals they have ever set for themselves, "I think too, now with kids, everything is so instant; everything is at their fingertips. So to have something that is a six-month goal that we're constantly working towards has been really cool for them to learn and practice and see."
Now the students are excited and they look forward to the runs but at the whole idea had a bumpy start, "Once we talked about the fact that running is more about improving for yourself and it doesn’t matter how fast you go you know you can walk you can run it’s just about you getting better once we kind of learned that then it really changed for a lot of the kids," said Carson, "We also learned about encouraging each other like I said it’s not a race it’s not about who can get here first it’s about all of us trying to get better together."
Even beyond running, Mr. Carson says that he has noticed a difference in the classroom too.
"At the elementary level now so much of it is just reading and math; there's other standards but those two especially, so some of the kids, if they don’t feel successful in those two situations then they just don’t feel like they're successful at school. The fact that we’ve added the running part in and kids can be active out here and find success that way maybe rather than in other ways and allows them to connect more with school which I think is important too," explained Carson.
The class plans on finishing the trail before the end of the school year and Mr. Carson says he will definitely be incorporating this in future classes as well.