It’s a special day when communities and schools, parents, kids, and teachers make that extra effort to find an alternate safe way to get to school other than riding on a bus or in a car. Meg McFarland, Walking School Bus Committee Chair, at Briarcliff Elementary in the North Kansas City Missouri School District, organized and created a “human school bus” to help celebrate International Walk to School Day on October 5, 2011. Briarcliff students, staff, parents, the North Kansas City High School Hornet Marching Band, Varsity Cheerleaders and Henry the Hornet along with invited guests and the surrounding community met at a designated area and walked, wheeled and rolled together to recognize the healthy benefits of exercise.
“Walking and bicycling to school enhances the health of kids, improves air quality and the environment, cuts down on traffic congestion and fuel costs, and is fun,” remarked McFarland. She explained that every Friday in fall and spring more than 30 students participate in the Walking School Bus—a fixed-route walking schedule that allows many adults to supervise kids on their walk to school. “The families, the community, and the environment all benefit,” she said. This initiative also supports the President’s Challenge and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign by helping to solve the problem of obesity within a generation, as well as ED’s new Green Ribbon Schools competition.
Through the 2005 passage of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act, Congress authorized $612 million toward developing the National Safe Routes to School Program, and money is distributed to states to fund education, planning and implementation of Safe Routes to School plans and programs.
Creating a special day for our children to walk or bike to school helps communities figure out ways to overcome their reliance on cars and buses. Briarcliff Elementary and thousands of schools across the country are encouraging healthy lifestyles by putting regular physical activity back into daily routines and promoting healthy eating habits — habits that have proven to produce happier students and higher grades.
Jeanne works in ED’s Kansas City, Mo., regional office.