E5 Challenge

Covering real distances in distance learning: At the Phorms Campus Munich, there have been many fresh-air walks in recent weeks, because the tenth graders Felix, Georg, Giorgio and Wladimir, together with their teacher Dr Samantha Manning-Benson, have taken part in a very special action. With the so-called E5 Challenge, they motivated fellow students, teachers and parents to walk the virtual distance from Munich to the Phorms Campus Berlin Mitte together with them. Read our interview to find out what this walk is all about and why they are supporting disadvantaged children at the same time.

With the so-called E5 Challenge, they motivated fellow students, teachers and parents to walk the virtual distance from Munich to the Phorms Campus Berlin Mitte together with them. Read our interview to find out what this walk is all about and why they are supporting disadvantaged children at the same time.

What gave you the idea of a virtual walk from the Phorms Campus Munich to the Phorms Campus Berlin Mitte?

Georg: We had problems covering our social activities within the "Duke of Edinburgh's International Award"* programme because of the Corona situation. With the active support of our teacher Dr Manning-Benson, we had already launched the first virtual walk in February, which was very well received within our school community. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, our traditional annual charity walk was cancelled this year. We therefore decided to take up the idea of the charity walk and combine it with our E5 Challenge. Since the Phorms Campus Munich always collects donations for the children's charity "Lichtblick Hasenbergl" during the charity walk, we organised an online collection campaign for this initiative for both walks. The 568 km route to Berlin lent itself quite well to the second walk and so it was clear to us that our virtual destination should be the Phorms Campus Berlin Mitte.

Wladimir: Our first charity challenge in February was very successful. We were able to collect donations amounting to almost 1,000 €. And we have almost reached our goal of 1,000 € in our current walk as well.

How does the Challenge actually work?

Wladimir: The distances walked by the participants were recorded in kilometres with a special app. Our IT teacher created a programme that allowed us to transfer the kilometres recorded directly from the app into an Excel spreadsheet to calculate them. We then use this to create an overview of all the kilometres walked per group for each day and post the results regularly on our Instagram page. While Giorgio and Felix deal with the figures in the Excel spreadsheets, Georg and I take care of Instagram. We are all in touch with each other constantly.

How big are the teams and how many participants are taking part in total?

Wladimir: In the current E5 Challenge, there are 13 teams and about 60 parents, students and teachers. Each group consists of four or five people.

How did you raise awareness of your virtual walk and find fellow participants?

Dr Manning-Benson: The first E5 Challenge in February was inspiring and got things moving. Parents were happy that their children were volunteering to go out every day and complete the walks. Some of our students got up at 6am to walk their 10 km before school started. Parents have emailed me to thank us for getting the kids away from their computer screens with this challenge. Some parents contacted our Leadership Team after the first virtual walk to ask if we could continue this campaign. Sports clubs had been closed for weeks because of Corona and it was very difficult to motivate the kids to go for walks or runs: the February Challenge, however, managed to inspire the participating students to do so. They formed their own walking groups and motivated each other via Whatsapp. There was great cohesion within the groups, but also a real sense of challenge with the other teams. Teachers and parents have also joined together in groups and are also walking in our current Challenge. There is simply a great atmosphere and a great cohesion throughout these virtual walks.

How do you motivate yourselves and the other participants to walk a certain distance every day?

Georg (at the time of the interview, he and his group had already completed both virtual walks): The incentive for us in both challenges has two components: On the one hand, getting away from the computer screens, which was good, because we had been sitting at home for about five months. During the challenge, we met in pairs and covered a distance of, for example, 20 km together, which was quite pleasant compared to constantly sitting in front of our PCs. On the other hand, the social component always spurred us on, because at the same time the donation campaign on Betterplace is still running.

Wladimir: It was simply an opportunity for parents, students and teachers to test their determination and how well they work together in a team, because without team spirit the challenge wouldn't work. A sense of team effort is an essential part of such a virtual group walk.

How many kilometres are covered on average every day?

Georg: The daily average is about 8 km. But there have also been days when individual teams have run up to 35 km per person.

Wladimir: We walked in spite of blisters and sore muscles: everyone took part actively because it was great fun for all participants.

Were there any particularly challenging moments and routes or funny encounters on the daily walking tours? 

Georg: On one day, Giorgio and I walked from the centre of Munich to the Allianz Arena. That's a distance of about 30 km that you wouldn't normally walk. That way we discovered parts of Munich that were completely new to us.  

Dr Manning-Benson: There were a lot of little adventures. At the first E5 Challenge in February, for example, the members of a group achieved a total of around 120 kilometres together in one day and had a ukulele with them. They were on the road for eight hours and had breaks for drinks and played songs on the ukulele.

What kind of feedback have you received from parents, teachers and fellow students about your virtual walking challenge?

Felix: At the beginning, I was especially concerned about finding enough student teams. In the meantime, my fellow students write to me almost every day about how much fun the Challenge is for them, and that it's great that they are in groups that give them the chance to work together with people with whom they might have had less to do before. But also all the thank-you emails from the parents and the many donations that have been collected in the meantime show that everyone is thrilled about this Challenge.

Georg: The feedback on our E5 Instagram channel has also been great. We have received a lot of likes and direct messages, especially from teachers who also really enjoy the challenge. We've had a lot of fun encouraging and motivating each other in these messages, which has also helped build a friendly relationship with some of the teachers.

Dr Manning-Benson: The Phorms Campus Berlin Mitte is also very enthusiastic about our challenge and they are already thinking about a similar walk from Berlin to our school in Munich. Of course, we could support the participants with our previous experience. The Josef Schwarz School is also already showing interest in the Challenge.

At the same time, you are collecting donations for the "Lichtblick Hasenbergl" project. How did this come about?

Wladimir: The Hasenbergl district is a very poor neighbourhood in Munich and many children grow up there in poverty. The "Lichtblick Hasenbergl" project helps these children and young people in various ways. Our school has been supporting this project for several years through charity runs and other activities. So there has been a special connection there for a long time.

What virtual route are you planning for the next walk?

Wladimir: We are considering an even longer challenge as the next move - maybe even a global walk. In any case, we are all enthusiastic and will decide in the next few weeks how to continue.

*The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award (DofE) is the world's leading award for youth engagement with the motto: "There's more to you than you think". This award aims to support young people in their personal development and encourages them to design their own programme of activities, set personal goals and drive themselves to achieve these goals. Phorms Gymnasium Munich started the DofE Award programme for the first time in the school year 2020/21 and 25 Phorms Year 10 students are on their way to the Silver Award.