Education column: Marshall students racing toward success

The race is on. If you’ve had occasion to drive by Marshall Middle School lately, you will have seen a giant banner with the words “The Great American Race” spanning the front doors of the building.

No … the school is not buying each of the middle school students a race car. This program is to promote a school-wide academic achievement program focused on the theme “the American In Me.”

During the first stage of the program, students chose a car template, which they decorated to represent themselves and the American in them, school-appropriate, of course. Advisory teachers then laminated the cars, which measure about eight inches, since the cars will be used throughout the school year.

The race terrain divides the U.S. into regions that each team will cover. The cars will advance along a highway lining the top portion of the hallways throughout the school.

Marshall has been successfully using cross-curricular teaching teams for the last couple of years, and there is a strong identification with one’s team. The teams — Jaguars, Panthers, Cougars, Leopards and Cheetahs — each have their own starting point in one of the regions. The regions students will race through include Alaska/Hawaii, heading towards New England, then on to the Mid-Atlantic states, then the South, Midwest, Southwest, West, then back to the Alaska/Hawaii region.

Each team’s starting point is staggered along the route to prevent car pile-ups.

The race begins with an “Opening of the Race” quiz, a very simple, basic content knowledge test. Students who complete the first quiz will then place their car on the starting line of their region.

Within each region a student will make four stops before proceeding to the next region. Each stop consists of a quiz, administered weekly during student team time — 30 minutes before or after lunch — with one question for each subject area, covering math, science, literacy, social studies, and a requirement of reading 250 pages to advance to a new region.

The advisory teachers administer the quizzes and keep the scores. Each nine weeks, prizes will be awarded for various accomplishments, including effort.

Winners will be selected from each of the five teams, and the first five students from each team to complete the race will receive the top prizes. All other students who complete the race will be given a fun activity day at the end of the school year, for example, a Spring Fling.

A modified version has also been developed to include all of the students in Special Ed in the race.

The kick-off was Wednesday morning, and the event was festive and engaging for students and staff alike. You could almost hear those engines revving, ready to go.

The best of luck to all student racers and somebody should award bonus points for teachers and administrators who stretch and reach and continue to inspire students.

Zig Ziglar said, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”

Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy is the instructional technology coordinator for the Clovis Municipal Schools and can be reached at: