The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection: International Walk to School Day - October 5, 2011

Friday, September 16, 2011

International Walk to School Day - October 5, 2011

"When I was your age, I walked five miles to school," ...or so said Grandpa or Great Grandpa when describing his school experience in the 1930s.  Today's children have it easy.  The bus picks them up outside of their house or at most, they must walk a block or two to the bus stop. If a district determines that children who live within a certain radius of the school don't need bussed transportation, some parents ignore that and drive their kids to school, especially on rainy or frigid mornings. (But I can't blame them for that logic!) No wonder our kids are overweight!

However, the school bus concept is much safer.  With less time on the road for a rogue driver to bounce onto the pavement or a wild animal to chase a child through the field, children have fewer opportunities to get into serious trouble before school begins and on their way home.

So, why organize a Walk to School Day?  To get the kids out in the fresh air, using their muscles for more than Wii games. 

How would you implement that observance?  Some people are organizing a walking school bus where the kids line up, accompanied by parents, and walk as a group to school.  What a great idea - within reason.  Naturally if you live ten miles from school, even Grandpa wouldn't approve of walking that far.  However, if you are close enough to participate, organize your neighbors and have fun walking with your children during the crisp autumn weather.  Listen for the return of the winter birds.  Look for the leaves changing color and explain why that happens.  Talk about safety on the sidewalk.  Turn the walking school bus ino a fun learning experience.

That's why I posted this early enough so you can begin planning now.  According to the folks at the Kidproof Safety blog, here’s how it works: Start small and invite your kids and a few neighborhood kids to walk to school together. (Explain to parents that it’s like a carpool without the car.) Try walking once or twice a week to start. Figure out a safe route that avoids busy streets, intersections, loose dogs and shifty areas. Devise a schedule for picking up your charges, building in enough time to allow for slower walkers or discoveries (a bird’s nest!) along the way.

Before taking your first step, have a talk with the kids about safety. Teach the kids to walk (not run!) on the sidewalk, to watch for drivers pulling out of driveways, and to obey all traffic signs and signals. The kids should also watch for cars at all times, looking left, right, backwards and forwards before crossing busy intersections.

Once your “bus” is a success, consider inviting other neighborhood families to join in, or share the idea with school leaders. Ideally, you should have one adult walking with every six school-age kids, or one adult for every three preschoolers. Ask the parents to take turns on “bus” duty, and print up a route and schedule for all participants.

By taking to the streets, you’ll be boosting your kids’ health, cutting traffic, helping the environment by reducing automobile emissions, and creating a sense of community.

Happy parenting!

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