We all know that active students are more engaged in school and that activity can help our students academically. October sees another event that encourages our school community to be more active. International Walk to School Day is held every October in most countries*. It is a global event that involves communities from more than 40 countries walking and biking to school on the same day. It began in 1997 as a one-day event but now thousands of schools across America – from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico participate in walks or bike rides to school to support this movement for year-round safe routes to school.
It’s a great way to promote healthy habits, a cleaner environment, promote bike safety and involve the community in a positive way.
If you are looking for resources and ideas, you’ve come to the right place.
If you are looking to recruit volunteers or support from businesses in your community, now is the time to start reaching out. You’ll want to make sure that they are committed and confirmed to attend. You’ll need to set out expectations so that they know their role and can help make this a successful event.
Action For Healthy Kids have some great ideas regarding recruiting support and involving your volunteers, including:
- Ask a local celebrity to walk or bike with your students.
- Ask volunteers to help with road crossing and other safety concerns.
- Combine the event with a bike safety check up.
- Volunteers could serve healthy snacks to students as they arrive to school.
You will find a wealth of downloadable materials via the walkbiketoschool.org site including B&W and color .jpg files that can be reprinted and turned into posters.
There are also flyers and banners, stickers and puzzles, and certificates and as an incentive for children to walk or ride to school regularly, punch cards to attach to back packs or keep in notebooks.
Walking School Bus and Bike Trains
Here’s a great way to include the community in the event. “Walking school buses are groups of children who walk designated routes to school under adult supervision. Some pick up kids along the way just like a bus, while others have a central meeting point from which everyone walks together. For some neighborhoods it’s a casual group walk, whereas others set up a formal plan with adults scheduled to walk on certain days.”
Similarly, bicycle trains are supervised by adults who act as ride leaders. This is a great way for students to practice safe cycling. According to the CDC children (5-14 years) and adolescents (15-19 years) have the highest rates of nonfatal bicycle-related injuries, accounting for more than one-third of all bicycle-related injuries seen in U.S. emergency departments.
Get a Heads Up on bicycle helmet safety with this PDF from the CDC.
Celebrate Walk to School Day
Action for Healthy Kids share the following ideas as ways in which to celebrate the day.
- Showcase School Spirit – Wear school colors and play the school song along the route.
- Clean up the Streets – I love this idea! Add to the community benefits from the day by also cleaning up litter along the route to school.
- Nature Scavenger Hunt – Come up with a short list of items for students to spot during their morning or afternoon walking commute. Ask students to take photos of items they see. Ask local businesses to donate prizes like bike helmets, backpacks or water bottles for students that participate. The GooseChase app is a great way to organize a scavenger hunt!
- Classroom Competition – Provide students with pedometers or a step-counting app to measure the distance traveled during walking commutes. Award healthy prizes to classrooms that have the most participants, most walking commutes and/or the most distance walked.
- Show Off a Family Member – Ask students to invite a special family member to walk with them. Consider offering a healthy breakfast or snacks after the walk to incentive participation.
- Make it More than a Day – Start a walking club before or after school. Work with students to track their miles and offer incentives for major mileage accomplishments.
- Blitz Social Media – Share your “view from my walk” photo via social media using an appropriate hashtag. Why not #WalkToSchoolDay
From England, Living Streets have a downloadable kit to encourage families to walk to school.
Check out what Alexandria City Public Schools are doing for the event this October.
*Australia has Walk Safely to School Day in May
*Ontario celebrates International Walk to School MONTH!
*New Zealand has a Feet First Walk to School Every Week campaign.