Before the ceremonial unveiling comes the wrapping – and it's not that easy this afternoon, when the wind is blowing wildly around the Erich Kästner School in Höhenkirchen-Siegertsbrunn. And so deputy principal Michaela Bonnkirch-Sapper needs the help of a colleague and a lot of extra tape before the blue sign with the inscription “Your path of strength begins here!” on the side wall of the elementary and middle school is covered with wrapping paper decorated with colorful butterflies.
After all, this digital fitness path is a “wonderful gift,” emphasizes Michaela Bonnkirch-Sapper a little later, after she tore down the butterfly paper and officially opened the “strength path” – together with Rector Torsten Bergmühl, Mayor Mindy Konwitschny ( SPD) and Simon Hahnzog. The latter is the managing director of the Munich start-up Gemara and is therefore responsible for the present.
Because Hahnzog has given the Erich Kästner School one of the “strength paths” that his company has previously created primarily for companies and organizations. In the future, he wants to focus his offerings on schools, says the entrepreneur and psychologist. The “Kraft-Weg” in Höhenkirchen-Siegertsbrunn will serve as a pilot project and demonstration object – the first of its kind in Germany for an educational institution.
Those guided walks, of which, according to Hahnzog, there are more than 500 in Germany and Austria, can be imagined as a fitness trail, says the company boss. “However, it's not about fitness and improving performance, but rather about promoting health.” Specifically, the individual stations of the strength path are walked with the smartphone in hand and using a free app; There is a QR code printed on the blue sign at the starting point.
The circuit is completed using a smartphone and a free app
At the beginning, the user decides on a topic that they want to devote to on the walk. In the case of the Erich Kästner Trail – that's the name of the digital fitness path in Höhenkirchen-Siegertsbrunn – these are, for example, headaches or back problems, which are probably intended more for teachers. At the same time, there are also subject areas that are likely to appeal primarily to teenagers. Like: “If no one likes you.” Or: “When you're sad.”
Once the desired topic has been chosen, the Strength Path takes you on an 800 meter long circular tour with seven stations, at each of which you watch a 45 to 90 second video on your smartphone. In this, various physical and mental exercises are demonstrated, which are intended to encourage either imitation or reflection. For example, the videos show a gymnastics exercise for the back or provide food for thought to ponder until the next station.
The company Gemara advertises its strength paths as “mini coaching for your lunch break”. According to Simon Hahnzog, the Erich Kästner Way is aimed at students and teachers as well as the local population. “The location is very suitable for this,” says Mayor Konwitschny, looking at the neighboring parish center and the nearby library. What she appreciates about the Strength Path is that it encourages people to get out – in the literal and figurative sense. “You're not only physically outside, but you're also mentally leaving the usual routine and taking on a different perspective.”
Especially in the wake of the pandemic, her school is trying to get children and young people “outside into nature,” says deputy principal Michaela Bonnkirch-Sapper. The Kraft-Weg could help here – true to the name of the company Gemara, which is made up of the first letters of “Go out”. The fact that Simon Hahnzog approached the Erich Kästner School and offered it a free “strength path” was “a great thing,” says the deputy principal. Normally, educational institutions would have to pay a fee of 4,800 euros for three years, says the managing director of the company founded in 2022. “The idea is that the schools find sponsors who will cover these costs.”
Whether this concept will work is, of course, still an open question. In any case, people at the Erich Kästner School are convinced of the idea. “The strength path can encourage students to do something mentally and physically,” says Michaela Bonnkirch-Sapper. It also enables teachers to recharge their batteries and relax every now and then. “Because no matter how much yoga we do,” says the deputy principal, “we all have back pain and neck tension.”