May 21, 2019, 11:07am | St Vrain Valley School District
If you don’t know to look for it, you might walk right past a narrow stretch of land previously designated for irrigation overflow at St. Vrain Valley School District’s Main Street School. But pause for a second, and you’ll likely recognize the remote-controlled car race track for what it is – the carefully tended, rolling mounds of dirt and strategically placed tires are an invitation to relax and revel in the simplicity of dirt.
St. Vrain Director of Transportation Lance Yoxsimer proposed the idea of building the Main Street Track as an opportunity to provide positive reinforcement and incentive to students. In prioritizing spending time with students, visiting schools, and riding with them on buses, he recognizes the impact of positive incentives and their potential to promote student growth both academically and behaviorally. This is especially important at Main Street School, St. Vrain’s school for students with emotional disabilities who need a structured, therapeutic educational setting. An avid race car driver, Yoxsimer talked with students at Main Street about his passion for the sport and found the conversations kindled notable interest. “It’s about so much more than cars. I saw an opportunity to enrich kids’ lives,” Yoxsimer says. “Obviously, we couldn’t start racing cars, but remote-controlled cars…that could be fun, with a meaningful purpose.”
Last fall, Yoxsimer put forward the idea of building the track and Main Street Principal Kate Green was on board from the get-go. “It really just folded into what we have at Main Street already in terms of providing incentives,” Green says. “We have a dedicated staff doing incredible things here. This was an opportunity that provides additional access for all our students.” Green, who is new to the district this year, was blown away by the level of support for her students. “I’m finding more and more, this is the St. Vrain way. People come together for the kids.” The community at large also responded to the idea with wholehearted enthusiasm, with HobbyTown in Longmont donating a range of remote-controlled cars.
More significantly, exceeding the energetic efforts to implement the track was the immediate student response, and a ripple effect of positive outcomes. “The track is a reward and an incentive, but it’s also a place of growth,” says Green. “Students are practicing social-emotional skills, working on turn-taking, collaborating. This is truly a vehicle for building community in our school.”
Students agree that the new track is a vehicle for success. “[The race track] gives me something to look forward to,” a fourth-grade student explains. Another fourth grader shares, “We get to ride around and put on the speed limits. It helps me regulate when I am mad.” Students say they are excited to bring their families to share the track on the weekends. There is keen awareness of the track as a tool for achieving at school.
Main Street School implemented a slow rollout of the track aligned with rigorous spring testing schedules, allowing for whole classes to experience the new area as reward for their hard testing efforts. “We wanted to provide general exposure initially,” Green says. Our aim was for kids to see and get excited about it.” The first exposure would provide a base for individual incentive opportunities, Green explains. The race track provides incentive for achievement in and out of the classroom, including time spent on district transportation services.
The track’s impact was immediate, and remarkable. Staff noted students who might not otherwise engage positively with each other working collaboratively and creatively. “Students offered to help each other with cars,” says Yoxsimer. “Teachers observed how patient and warm they were with one another out there.”
On April 19, Main Street School held a car-themed celebratory event, bringing students and their families together to mark the completion of testing, launch the new track, and highlight the many achievements of the school community. The event, which included a car show and barbeque, became a memorable opportunity for staff, students, and families to engage with one another in the spirit of community.
What’s next for Main Street School’s track? The modest but impactful stretch of dirt is steadily being recognized as a model for other, and similar, incentive programs, district-wide. Regardless of how the track evolves, one thing is certain: it will continue to serve as one of many mainstays at Main Street designed to positively build community. “This project is really about serving our staff and students,” Green and Yoxsimer agree.