When my daughter was in 5th grade, I was very active in the Parent Teacher Association. I was the Board Executive for the “Health and Safety Committee” and one of the events I coordinated was “Walk to School” in October. At that time, child obesity was the “hot” issue and “Walk to School” event promoted walking to prevent obesity and to rally safer sidewalks for kids. But conserving the environment was not the biggest causes albeit mentioned as one of the reasons for walking to school. When I proposed “Walk to School” event, everyone was excited and the turnout was phenomenal. I think kids thought is was just one big party with balloons
I followed the detailed program guidelines set up by iwalktoschool.org, the organization from United Kingdom that started the original Walk to School in 1994. Since the first walk, the movement grew to include 42 countries and over 3 million children taking part in this annual event in 2007 and is rapidly growing. In 1997, in Partnership for a Walkable America hosted the first walk to school event in Chicago and later in Los Angeles.
For my daughter’s elementary school’s first Walk to School event, the students, teachers, administrators, and even some of the support staff, met at a local park , about a mile away from the school, and the kids carried the signs and placards that they made in school, promoting “Walk to School.” We had the local news, police, volunteer ambulance personnel, and the streets were briefly closed to allow 200+ children walk to school that morning. It was a crisp sunny October day, perfect for walking. And when we arrived at the school, the kids were given healthy snacks and drinks. They were also given information packets explaining why walking to school was strongly encouraged. It was a huge success and the kids remembered that day long afterwards…and the balloons.
Walktoschool.org is the organization behind the event in the U.S. and it lists conserving the environment as the second reason for walking or bicycling to school. As of today, there are 1355 schools registered for this event and all but three states are registered in the U.S.
This year’s “Walk to School America” is on October 7, 2009. The kids can walk or ride bicycles to school. It’s still not too late to register and organize the event for your child’s school. You don’t have to be a specially trained person to organize it. Contact your PTA or the principal and you can propose the walk for environmental and health reasons. I’m sure they will love the idea. You know as well as I do, walking is great for reducing air pollution, eliminating dependence on oil, and reducing unnecessary CO2 emission from cars….and of course for staying fit and healthy.
For more information, contact walktoschool.org and register your school.
And come back here and let me know how the event was. I’d love to hear about it.