About Walk to School Day
What is Walk to School Day?
Each October, millions of children, parents, teachers and community leaders across the globe walk to school to celebrate International Walk to School Day. Walk to School Day is an energizing event, reminding parents and children alike of the simple joy of walking to school.
Walk to School Day brings parents, teachers, children, and community leaders together to focus on the importance of physical activity, safety and walkable communities. Walk to School Day events teach kids and parents to think of walking as an active, safe and healthy means of transportation.
It Began As An Idea
In 1997, the Partnership for a Walkable America sponsored the first National Walk Our Children to School Day in Chicago. Back then, it was simply a day to bring community leaders and children together to make a community more walkable.
It's Become a Movement
By the year 2002, children, parents, teachers and community leaders in all 50 states joined nearly 3 million walkers around the world to celebrate the second annual International Walk to School Day. The reasons for walking have grown just as quickly as the event itself.
Whether your concern is safer and improved streets, healthier habits, or cleaner air, Walk to School Day events are aimed at bringing forth permanent change to encourage a more walkable America - one community at a time.
The reasons are almost limitless. We'll just start with two of the most important...
Many communities walk to show adults and children how easy and enjoyable the world's simplest exercise can be. Research shows that physically inactive kids are more likely to grow up to be physically inactive adults - and are therefore at high risk for obesity and its related problems.
Walk for Tomorrow
Walk to School Day can be an eye-opening event. From sidewalks and crosswalks to cleaned up streets, it is a chance to identify things that need changing with the community leaders who can create that change. For many, this is a first step toward creating a walkable community.
What you can do to promote Walk to School Day
- Send home flyers or letters to parents informing them of Walk to School Day
- Plan an organized Walk to School involving parents, teachers, local officials, police, etc.
- Encourage parents to participate in Walk to School Day by walking their children to school
- Put up posters at school
- Make sure kids know about Walk to School Day by making announcements on the school intercom
- Review pedestrian safety tips and the health benefits of walking, in class, prior to Walk to School Day.
- Plan a School assembly on healthy behaviors and pedestrian safety
- Plan a healthy breakfast gathering at the school
- Plan a presentation given by the local police chief, fire chief or a health educator.
Quick Facts from www.walktoschool.org:Kids Need to Move
Obesity rates among children have more than doubled in the past twenty years, according to the National Longitudinal Study of Youth. Even worse, rates of obesity are much higher among minority children than among white youth, suggesting a grave social inequity in the availability of safe, healthy recreational opportunities.
Add to walking to the mix. Physical activity recommendations for children suggest that they need a variety of activities each day-some intense, some less-so, some informal, some structured. Walking or cycling to and from school is an ideal way to get some of that activity at no extra cost to the child or family.
Walking to school is a missed opportunity. Roughly 10% of children nationwide walk to school regularly. Even among those kids living within a mile of their school, only 25% are regular walkers.
Health and Well Being for the Whole Family
Walking or biking to school helps both the environment and children's health. By choosing to walk or bike to school, children can reduce levels of air pollutants, such as ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and air toxics. Air pollutants can be especially harmful to children, whose respiratory systems are still developing, and can lead to more severe health problems for children with lung diseases like asthma.
Just 30 minutes of activity a day is enough to reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease (the number one killer of both men and women in America), diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, clinical depression, and some forms of cancer. To put it simply, with a daily two-mile walk you'll feel better, look better, and be better!
Break it up! Your 30 minutes of activity can be accumulated-say, a 15 minute walk to school in the morning, and 15 minutes home in the afternoon-and still provide the same health benefits, according to the Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health.
Walking works. Walking just one mile in 20 minutes will burn roughly the same number of calories as:
- Swimming breast stroke for 9 minutes.
- Running a mile in 10 minutes.
- Bicycling for 16 minutes.
- Playing baseball for 25 minutes.
Safety, By the Numbers
The number of children injured as pedestrians by motor vehicles each year: about 25,000.
Therefore, some of the best ways to increase the safety of a child's walk to school are to:
- provide safe, well-maintained walkways separate from vehicles;
- teach children to cross streets at marked crossings, and provide ample, well-designed, accessible, and when necessary monitored crosswalks;
- slow traffic in neighborhoods and near schools.
A Quick Guide to What's WhatInternational Walk to School Day: A one-day event that occurs around the world every October. Children, parents, teachers and community leaders walk to school together to promote being active and making streets more friendly for walking and bicycling.
Walk to School Programs: Programs that extend Walk to School Day events into more sustained programs to encourage safe walking and bicycling to school. They rely on neighborhood, school, transportation, public works, health, safety and environmental partners to accomplish specific goals. They occur at the neighborhood, school, county or state level.
SAFE KIDS Walk This Way: A year-round pedestrian safety program conducted by the National SAFE KIDS Campaign with support from FedEx Express and 3M. Local SAFE KIDS coalitions launch the programs by participating in International Walk to School Day. SAFE KIDS coalitions work with parents, educators and community leaders to teach pedestrian safety to kids, enforce speed limits and other traffic regulations, and improve school environments through research, engineering and traffic calming.
Walking School Bus: A small group of students who are accompanied by one or more adults on their walks to and from school. This can be a component of walk to school programs.
KidsWalk-to-School: A walk to school program, developed by CDC, to guide community members and local and state health officials on how to implement walking school buses and other walk to school program activities.
Safe Routes to School: A sustained walk to school program that uses a comprehensive approach (encouragement, education, engineering, and/or enforcement) to make school routes safer for kids to walk and bicycle. The programs often use policies and dedicated transportation funding to create permanent change and normalize walking.
Safe Routes to School Legislation: Legislation that dedicates funding to create safe walking and bicycling routes to school. The model is California's law that directs significant transportation funding to Safe Routes to School programs at the local level.
Prepared by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center of the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center for the Partnership for a Walkable America. Funding provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Take It Beyond The Day
Increasing physical activity among children, teaching safe walking skills, easing traffic and improving the environment around schools can not be achieved in one day. Many communities are using Walk to School Day to kick off long-term programs designed to bring about permanent changes.
Start a Walking School Bus
Many communities who want to make walking to school safer have started walking school buses. In a walking school bus, a small group of children walk to school together under the supervision of one or more adults. In Chicago, more than 175 schools participate in a walking school bus program created by the city and the Chicago Police Department. To find out more about walking school buses, go to www.walkingschoolbus.org.
Measure Your Neighborhood's "Walkability"
Using a simple five-question walkability checklist (available at www.walktoschool.org), adults and children can examine their neighborhoods and measure how friendly their streets are for walkers. The checklist helps users identify specific walking problems, such as a lack of sidewalks or dangerous street crossings, and offers solutions. Results can be shared with community leaders to prompt change.
Teach Safe Walking
Walking skills will not only make children become better pedestrians but they'll learn to become better motorists when the time comes.
Ways to Relay the Safety Message:
- Obstacle Course - Walk to School organizers in Ocala, Florida, built a pedestrian obstacle course and asked children to demonstrate the safest response to each hazard.
- Safety Zone - Houston, Texas, used Walk to School Day to kick off the Children's Safety Zone in a Spanish-speaking, urban district that will receive intense pedestrian safety education for two years.
Traffic congestion and speeding cars can make the area around schools a dangerous place for kids on foot or on bike. Many communities have used Walk to School Day to encourage drivers to slow down and to reduce traffic in front of schools.
- Drop Off Zones - In Langley, British Columbia, Walk to School Day coordinators encouraged the use of drop off zones located one block from school. Traffic in front of school was reduced from 90 to 19 cars per day.
- Speed Enforcement - The Madison, Wisconsin, Area SAFE KIDS Coalition worked with local traffic officers to get speed boards posted around schools. During the week of the event, officers ticketed school zone speeders.
Walking or bicycling to school is a great way to get kids moving again. Even schools not located within walking or bicycling distance have found ways to get their students active.
Ideas To Encourage Physical Activity:
- Walking Wednesdays - Establish at least one day a month for everyone to walk to school or schedule a weekly walk at or around the school.
- Pedometers - Use pedometers (devices that count steps) to track the distances students walk. Plot mileage on a map of the United States. See how long it takes the school to walk across the nation.
Promote the Health Benefits
- Rewards - Recognize kids who've walked the farthest or classes with the greatest participation.
- Learn Health - Read about the benefits of daily exercise: resting and exercise heart rates, strength, and endurance.
- Mile-Walk Challenge - At the beginning of the school year, time a one-mile walk. Repeat after nine-months of walking to school, and recognize the biggest improvements.
- Walking Curriculum - Draw maps, calculate miles, observe nature and history, or write poetry. Walking can be a part of every class!