“Go for Gold” is an informal walking initiative developed to encourage children to walk to school with the added benefits of helping to reduce traffic congestion and pollution and to promote healthier lifestyles.
Children who choose to register for the activity are issued a “passport” that is marked with a sticker for every walk to school. Organizers designated drop-off and parking areas so children who live farther away have the chance to walk at least part of the way. When a student walks to school ten times, he or she receives a colored star, and different colors are awarded for successive milestones, with gold the highest ranking. Incentives are awarded according to the number of stars a student has collected.
“Go for Gold” is simple and inexpensive, and schools participating in the initiative have seen a significant decrease in car use. One school reduced car use from 62 percent in 2000 to 26 percent in 2001 with 80 percent of children participating. The reduction has been maintained at 26 percent through 2003. The “Go for Gold” initiative has been replicated in other school districts in the UK. In 2002, the “Go for Gold” initiative received the International Walk to School Award for its impressive accomplishments.
Earning passport stamps at Lytchett Matravers Primary School in Dorset, England.
In October 2004, Lytchett Matravers Primary School in Dorset, England, launched a walking incentive initiative called “Passport to Health.” Involving more than 400 children, the initiative was designed to reduce traffic around the school and to improve the health and fitness of children and parents.
As part of the initiative, children are given a “passport” that is stamped each time they walk to and from school. The number of stamps received depends on the distance walked. The school produced a map of the local area on which every road was color-coded into zones, so that children who come to school by car can be dropped off within a specific zone and still earn stamps for their passports. The school has also marked out a “walking route” around the playground, so children traveling to school by bus can participate by walking measured distances within the playground at certain times of the day. Children exchange the earned passport stamps for small prizes.
Since the initiative’s introduction, organizers have measured an 18 percent reduction in motor vehicle use around the school, as well as a 16 percent increase in walking and bicycling rates. Children and a group of staff members are now responsible for managing the initiative on a daily basis. Lytchett Matravers is working with other schools in the area that want to develop similar passport schemes.
Planning their kick-off Walk and Roll to School Day, the Mason Safe Routes to School Team thought they’d include a bicycle train, but with only one student ever seen bicycling to school, they didn’t actually expect more than a rider or two to pedal with the train that morning. To their great surprise, 45 children showed up with bicycles and helmets, eager to participate in Mason’s first-ever bicycle train.
With that overwhelming start, the Mason bicycle train has become an integral part of the school’s monthly “Walk and Roll to School Day” events. The train is staffed by volunteers from the local Gwinnett County Bicycle Users Group and a few Mason parents. The “engineer” leads the group, the “caboose” brings up the rear, and adults are interspersed between the children, with a typical ratio of 1 adult to 4 children. The train has two starting “stations” in the morning, and the two groups merge to form a large train that rides down the highly traveled road to the school. In the afternoon, the bicycle trains run back to their starting “stations.
Prior to each monthly event, the Safe Routes Team sends each student home with a flyer announcing the Walking School Bus and Bike Train schedule. The flyer includes a permission slip, and students must return the permission slip signed by a parent in order to participate. This procedure helps clarify liability issues and assists in planning for the number of adults needed for the event. Children in grades K-2 must have a parent accompany them. At the start of each ride, the train leaders are provided a list of participants.
Riders are asked to bring their own helmet and lock, but the bicycle train leaders always have extra helmets on hand. As the group gathers, the leaders distribute bright neon-green reflective safety vests, provided by the Georgia Department of Transportation. The vests provide high visibility for safety on the road and have become the “signature” of the Mason bike train
A few years ago, bicycling to school was unheard of at Mason. The monthly well-supervised bicycle trains have shown families in the neighborhoods around the school that bicycling can be a transportation option and many have now incorporated bicycling into their own daily travel patterns.
Maurice Cody celebrates its 200th Walking Wednesday.
On Wednesday, June 8, 2005, Canada’s Clean Air Day, families and staff at Maurice Cody Public School in Toronto celebrated their 200th Walking Wednesday! The celebration involved many VIPs who accompanied students, parents and staff in a community parade led by a Scottish piper.
Maurice Cody, a Junior Kindergarten through Grade 6 public school with approximately 500 students, has participated in the Green Communities | Active & Safe Routes to School since 1997. They have successfully combined daily physical activity with environmental protection and classroom learning into their Walking Wednesday activity. They are also one of four Toronto schools participating in Green Communities School Walking Routes pilot project.
Maurice Cody was one of the first three schools to participate in Green Communities Active & Safe Routes to School program and the very first Toronto school to implement Walking School Buses. Almost all of the students at Maurice Cody live within walking distance of the school and about 86 percent of the school’s students walk to school on Wednesdays.
Maurice Cody inspired the first weekly Walking Wednesday activity in Canada in 1999 following on the heels of International Walk to School Day and then went on to initiate a Cross Canada Walking Tour. Not content to stay in Canada they then set off across North America and by the end of the 2003 school year they had ‘walked’ to the Panama Canal!
The program relies heavily on parent volunteers with support from staff and students. Every Wednesday morning volunteers greet students at tables set up in the school yard or inside the school during inclement weather. Walking Wednesday banners hang on the fence around the school. As walkers arrive, they are greeted with a compilation of walking-themed music. They receive a ‘Cody Coyote’ hand stamp and ‘sign in’ on large shoes made from poster board which are then displayed in the school hall. For families who are unable to walk all the way to school on Wednesdays, they are urged to ‘walk a block’ – actually a minimum of two blocks.
To track participation and encourage continued participation, each Wednesday classroom teachers count the number of students who arrive at school ‘actively’. During the Tuesday morning announcements the participation numbers from the previous Walking Wednesday are given, along with a reminder to "W-A-L-K: Walk to School on Wednesday!" At the end of each school year a Recognition Assembly is held and the much coveted "Golden Shoe" award is presented to the class with the highest participation in Walking Wednesdays throughout the year.
See more information on Walking Wednesdays.
One reason Morton Way students walk is because they care about the environment.
For six years, Morton Way Public School has actively and successfully promoted walking to school through a variety of program elements: weekly Walking Wednesdays; “Walking Weeks” including International Walk to School Week, Earth Week and Environment Week; parent-led walking school buses along designated routes; “IWALK Club” cards students use each time they walk and a “25 or Less” campaign. With 96 percent of the students living within walking distance of the school, their Green Communities Active and Safe Routes to School (ASRTS) program is focused on increasing daily physical activity and reducing the number of vehicles in the school zone at drop-off time. For the school’s 870 students, the goal is to make every day Walk to School Day!
On Walking Wednesdays, parents and one teacher act as walking school bus leaders, meeting students at various locations in the school community and walking safely and happily to school as a group. Along one route, the number of participants has risen from four to over thirty. (Some leaders walk with their “buses” on other days of the week, too.) On Wednesdays, students hold up a banner outside the school stating, "Peel Students Walk" (purchased by the Police Services Board). Permanent banners (provided by Go for Green) proudly announce, “Morton Way Walks" and "Morton Way Celebrates Walking Wednesdays.” As students arrive at the school, songs about walking are played outside on the stereo. Once a month, parents and grandparents are invited into the library for tea and to hear guest speakers. These “meet and greet” sessions, sponsored by the school administration, help build a sense of community. Find out more about Walking Wednesdays.
To promote walking every day, each student has an “IWALK Club” card to track the number of times they walk to school. Students receive small rewards after reaching ten walks and then again after fifty. Completed cards are posted on a bulletin board. As an added incentive, students can become “Walking Winners” in the monthly Walk to School Draw and classes with 100 percent participation can win the use of a bag of playground equipment for a week.
Morton Way students walk to celebrate Earth Week.
Started in 2005, the “25 or Less” campaign aims to further reduce the number of cars dropping off children in front of the school. Stickers saying “25 or Less” and “We are counting…on you!” are posted throughout the school. To promote participation, reminders are included in the school newsletter, and the number of cars is announced daily. An enthusiastic Morton Way teacher even wrote a poem describing the goals.
The Walk to School Program has now been in place for six years. “Walking Wednesday” is practically considered a day of the week, even by kindergarten students. Morton Way staff members are committed to the program, and they are determined to continue it, led by a five teacher “Active Schools Committee.” Much of the weekly responsibilities are conducted by dedicated students who make up the “Walk to School Committee.” They conduct weekly surveys, then calculate, post and announce the Walk to School results, including the classes with 100 percent participation. In 1999 surveys showed that almost half of students were driven to school regularly. In 2000 “Walking Wednesdays” began and ever since, between 80 percent and 95 percent of students walk, cycle, scooter or blade to school on Wednesdays. More students are using active means of transportation on other days, too, as indicated by the reduction in the number of cars dropping off students from an average of 75 to 55.
St John’s Primary School has taken up bicycling with great enthusiasm as a result of a £20,000 (approximately $34,000) local project funded by Rotherhithe Community Council. The funds have been used for bicycle training, bicycle events and bicycle racks to encourage bicycling to school as an alternative to riding in a car.
Southwark Cyclists (www.southwarkcyclists.org.uk), the project coordinators, selected St John’s school because of the principal’s support and the students’ enthusiasm, 84 percent of whom expressed a desire to bicycle to school. The key reason for the school’s involvement was concerns about the traffic congestion during pick-up and drop-off times.
The Cycle Saturation project, managed on a day-to-day basis by SEA/RENUE (www.sustainable-energy.org.uk), built on the students’ desires to bicycle to school by providing cycle training for all interested students. Cycle Training UK (www.cycletraining.co.uk) provided the instructors to train students, parents and teachers and conducted maintenance workshops to ensure that the students’ bicycles were well-maintained. The project also added new bicycle racks because the existing ones were full every day.
The school also planned a series of events to complement the training, beginning in April with an event that included bicycle games. In June, all children and adults who bicycled that month were invited to a Bicycle Breakfast. The events were capped by a Bike Week bicycling celebration. With the help of Southwark Cyclists, these events were held jointly with a neighboring school where bicycling was already very popular. For the following school year, a bicycle club was planned in order to build on the momentum of the project and ensure that the bicycle racks stay full in the future.
Punch card from the Frequent Walker Program at Lincoln Elementary School, Elmhurst, Illinois
In an effort to increase physical activity and health awareness as well as to reduce traffic congestion, the Lincoln Elementary PTA developed a Frequent Walker/Rider Program in 2003 to encourage children to walk or bicycle to school on a regular basis. Walk to School days are scheduled for the third Tuesday of each month and are published on the school calendar.
On each Walk to School day, parent volunteers and teachers meet children at the four primary school corners to punch students’ Frequent Walker/Rider Punchcards. As incentives for participation, walkers and bicycle riders receive small prizes, and the school holds a year-end event to recognize children who have participated on the majority of the Walk-to-School days.
The Frequent Walker/Rider Program led to an increase in the number of walkers and bicycle riders on the Walk-to-School days as well as on a daily basis. Lincoln Elementary has approximately 500 children who live within a mile and a half of the school, and overall participation in the warmer months was between 90 percent and 95 percent. In colder months, participation falls only slightly (to between 80 percent and 90 percent) on the scheduled days. The activities have become part of the school's culture and Lincoln children look forward to participating each year.
Ephesus Elementary School walkers on International Walk to School Day
At Ephesus Elementary School, a loosely organized walking school bus gets families out the door. In the past few years, more families have started walking, bicycling and riding scooters to school. In various neighborhoods, parents and children meet and walk to school together. If a parent is unable to walk on a particular day, another parent is contacted to supervise and walk with the child. According to parents, one of the greatest benefits of walking to school is the chance to socialize and get to know other families.
A few years ago, Hinsdale parents, school administration and community leaders were concerned about the increasing traffic congestion and the decreasing number of walkers around their seven neighborhood schools. Through collaboration with schools, villages and other governing bodies, their first Walk to School event was held.
The first year's celebration was promoted with the slogans, "Feel the Power of the Fourth" and "May the Fourth be With You", and signs with the Star Wars' Yoda on them. The "Star Wars" theme was used to remind participants of the October 4th Walk to School date. As part of the day, participants were asked to complete walkability checklists in order to learn more about safety concerns along walk routes. Students and their families along with caregivers, police, firefighters, local, state and federal political leaders, teachers and staff, all wearing "walk to school" buttons, arrived at school on foot. A short flag pole ceremony and recognition of dignitaries and supporters wrapped up the event.
The Walk to School celebration described here as well as those held in subsequent years brought visibility to pedestrian safety concerns, which helped build support for a planned "network" of sidewalks, with the focus on providing walkways to schools, parks, and other locations generating pedestrian traffic. Other school based activities, including classroom lessons, mileage clubs and incentives have been initiated to meet the interest in promoting walking.
When the Safe Routes to School project started at suburban Mason Elementary School, just a handful of the 1,200 students walked to school and only one bicycled. So when the first "Walk and Roll to School Day" was planned, organizers weren't sure the event would be much of a success. Organizers reported that over 100 kids walked with the Walking School Bus, 50 joined the Bicycle Train, lots of parents came out, and the enthusiasm for the now-monthly Walk and Roll to School Days hasn't let up since.
To keep it interesting, each monthly Walk and Roll event at Mason had a special theme. In November, with growing darkness, the theme was "Be Safe, Be Seen." In January it was "A Polar Bear Walk and Roll" to encourage walking and bicycling in cold weather. Children were greeted with hot chocolate and a giant painted polar bear. In February, the theme focused on healthy hearts; in March, kids were encouraged to "Be One Less Car." At the end of the school year, the theme was a retrospective of the year's Walk and Roll events including a picture album and a banner decorated with students' personal reflections on walking and bicycling to school. One fifth grader tearfully lamented moving on to middle school because she would miss these special days.
Organizers reported that the Walk and Roll events at Mason have planted the seeds for daily walking and bicycling. The new bicycle racks are often full, walking and bicycling has become "cool" to do, and the "coolest" kids try to hide their excitement on Walk and Roll Days. "What's the big deal?" they said, "We do this every day!"
Arborfield, Newland and Barkham C.E. Junior School Walking School Bus, Arborfield, England
In order to ease congestion around Arborfield, Newland and Barkham C.E. Junior School, the school's council established a School Travel Plan in March 2004. The plan includes a walking school bus that leaves from a designated parking area where parent volunteers supervise the children's walk to school.
After the plan was created, organizers asked parents to register their children and also to volunteer to lead the walking school buses. A local organization gave permission for the school to use its parking lot as the designated area for parents to meet the walking school bus. Children who participated were required to register each day, wear a fluorescent jacket and leave the lot at the predetermined time guided by volunteers.
As an incentive for children, school officials regularly ask special guests—like Santa Claus in December—to join their walks to school. School officials report many benefits of their activities: walking school buses are free of capital costs, and they help ease congestion and pollution. The children enjoy the walk, make new friends and have the opportunity to see things around them that they might miss if they were driven to school.
See Park and Walk—The Walking Bus for more information.
There are many ways to design mileage clubs and contests. A few brief examples are provided here. Also see the NHTSA SRTS Toolkit and Marin County Safe Routes to School site for further detail and other ideas.
Proud students show-off the Golden Sneaker Award at Hall Middle School in Larkspur, California
In Marin County, California, many activities motivate children to walk and bicycle to school. For example, Hall Middle School in Marin County developed the Golden Sneaker Award — a sneaker spray-painted gold and placed on a pedestal. Children keep track of each time they walk or bicycle to school and keep a classroom record. To include children who are unable to walk or bicycle to school, children are allowed to accrue miles on the weekend or during school recess. Each month the class with the most children walking and bicycling the greatest number of times receives the trophy and usually a celebration.
Also in Marin County, children participate in "Frequent Rider Miles." Patterned after GO GERONIMO, an alternative transportation program in the San Geronimo Valley of Marin County, this activity rewards children who come to school walking, bicycling, by carpool, or by bus by awarding points that are accrued and redeemed for prizes. This contest was successful in getting students to walk and bicycle on a regular basis.
Tracking the miles walked and bicycled across land (and sometimes sea!) is another popular theme that offers added benefits such as promoting physical activity and integrating educational elements, such as geography, into the activity. Individual students, classes or schools track the distances they have walked or bicycled and add the miles together to travel across a map of their state, province, country or even a continent.
Students at Maurice Cody Public School in Toronto, Ontario, Canada created their own Cross Canada Walking Tour. After crossing Canada, they crossed North America and by the end of the 2003 school year they had 'walked' though Central America to the Panama Canal. Several other schools in Canada now use a map and classroom curriculum provided by Green Communities to track their progress and learn as they make their way across the country.
Several resources are available on the internet to support a mileage tracking program.
This case study is provided courtesy of the National Center for Physical Activity and Disability.
Weather conditions can be challenging in Chicago during the winter months. To shake off the winter blues and supplement the schools' participation in International Walk to School Day and Walking and Wheeling Wednesdays, Solomon Elementary School and the National Center for Physical Activity and Disability (NCPAD) developed a Sports Day. The goal of Sports Day was to provide an inclusive event for all students to be more physically active and learn about safe pedestrian travel.
Solomon School SRTS Sports Day involved 390 students of all abilities rotating through activity stations which included adaptive cycling, wheelchair sports, parachute games, nature activities, pedometer tracking instruction, and pedestrian safety. Sports Day was a collaboration of Solomon School, NCPAD, Project Mobility, Chicago Park District, Active Transportation Alliance, and Safe Routes Ambassadors. These organizations came together to teach educate, enable, and encourage students, parents, and school staff on the inclusion of students with disabilities in a Safe Routes to School Walk and Wheel program in order to foster a healthy lifestyle for all children.
The success of the event was demonstrated in the remarks from students commenting on how they wanted to use the adaptive cycles in the grand finale parade and how much fun it was to spin in the racing wheelchair.
A video clip of Sports Day of Solomon Elementary School can be viewed on NCPAD's website at: http://www.ncpad.org/fitt/fact_sheet.php?sheet=707
A walking school bus at Natomas Park Elementary School
At Natomas Park Elementary School in Sacramento, California parents organize the walking school bus which includes five routes based on where children live and a schedule with times for each stop. In order to participate, parents register their children ahead of time.
Walk leaders include parents and employees from a local business, which is a sponsor of the activity. Each volunteer must have a background check prior to participation. Training for volunteers, provided by the parent leader, includes first aid, CPR and pedestrian safety. While walking, volunteers wear vests and carry first aid kits.
To recognize the walkers’ achievements, parent volunteers track the total number of miles walked during the school year and announce it at a year-end assembly. Walkers also receive T-shirts and certificates.
About 50 children participate and many more children are now seen walking to school. Organizers have recently expanded the activity to include remote sites where parents can drop off their children and adult volunteers walk with the children the rest of the way to school.
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Toole
Swansfield Elementary School in Columbia, MD held its first Walk to School Day in 2005. The event was so popular that the school launched a Safe Routes to School program soon afterwards. From the outset, Swansfield's program involved students with disabilities. During Walk-to-School days, the school designated an alternative bus drop-off location a short distance from the school (along a school walking route) so that children who could not walk to school would be able to participate — including students with disabilities who receive special busing services. Teachers and parent volunteers were posted at the alternative location to assist special education students so that they were fully involved in the event and were able to walk to school with their peers.
In addition to ensuring that SRTS encouragement programs included students with disabilities, Swansfield used SRTS grant money (including federal and local funds) to improve accessibility to the campus, including eliminating key sidewalk gaps and installing ADA-compliant curb ramps.
The IWALK Club was initiated in 2004 by Green Communities | Active & Safe Routes to School (ASRTS) in Ontario, Canada, as a strategy to encourage families to walk to school more regularly using the motivation of increasing daily physical activity. The Club makes walking and other forms of active travel fun by using incentives and rewards for students and by introducing in-school activities. The IWALK Club has several goals:
Schools register for the IWALK Club online and complete a short questionnaire which serves as a baseline for each school. Students are provided with an IWALK Club card and every time they walk to school or participate in a related in-school activity, like a kilometer club or walking club, they receive a stamp in their card. Every tenth stamp is a golden sneaker sticker. Five golden sneaker stickers equal 50 walks, upon which the student receives a certificate of achievement. Schools can add their own incentives, like an extra recess for class achievement or the awarding of a ‘golden shoe award’.
Curriculum-linked classroom activity ideas are provided with the IWALK Club package along with a funky poster map of the world to encourage classes to ‘walk around the world by walking to school or in school’. All classroom resources are linked to the Ontario curriculum and cover several subject areas including science, math, geography, history, art, writing, music, and physical education. The classroom resources cover the issues on the importance of daily physical activity; the impacts of air quality and climate change on human and environmental health; community design, land use planning and transportation; healthy, active bodies for healthy, active minds; and traffic safety and awareness.
Green Communities conducts a follow-up evaluation with each registered school and compares it to the baseline information. Schools that show a measurable difference in participation are entered into a draw for three grand prizes, awarded each year during International Walk to School Week.
To learn more about this program, download resources and view the registration form visit the Active and Safe Routes to School program IWALK Club.
Children walking the Morning Mile at Jenkins Elementary School in Scituate, Massachusetts.
The "Morning Mile" at Jenkins Elementary was designed to give bus riding students an opportunity to enjoy the benefits of walking.
Parent volunteers, including men in the school's "Dad's Club," and Physical Education teachers created a half-mile loop around the school grounds for the children to walk during regular, all-school "Morning Mile" walks. The Dad's Club built wide timber stairways to provide pedestrian access to the playground and school. Teachers report that children had more enthusiasm for schoolwork and behaved better after venting some energy during the Morning Mile walks.
Olive Chapel Elementary students walk to school.
In 2004, the Olive Chapel Walk to School Coalition kicked-off a monthly walking school bus, giving families an opportunity to walk to school despite the construction that neighborhoods near the school had experienced in recent years.
"Neighborhood captains," parents and children walk from six separate departure points to the school. One route meets in a parking lot so families who live too far to walk can participate. Reminders about the monthly walk are sent home on the previous Friday and children who participate receive prizes.
Parent volunteers act as neighborhood captains. At the start of the school year, they receive safety training. During the walks, they wear green vests and use whistles to communicate to children when they need to stop. Because the activity is designed to be family-oriented, parents are required to walk with their children to school, but they are free to arrange among themselves to supervise each other's children.
A volunteer parent and the school physical education teacher share leadership of this growing activity. Since it began, one route has had as many as 200 people who regularly walk.
Cold weather does not stop C.P. Smith's walking school bus.
C.P. Smith Elementary School's walking school bus has operated every Wednesday since March 2005, as part of a Safe Routes to School program.
While the neighborhood bordering the school has a fairly complete sidewalk system, some families were concerned about their children walking to school with the considerable traffic congestion along the route. In winter 2005, parents organized a meeting with other interested families to discuss their concerns and develop guidelines for a walking school bus. The group determined the bus's route, time of departure, meeting points and other details.
Now, every Wednesday morning the bus departs from a walk leader's house with a small group of children. For late arriving students, a closed garage door indicates that the bus has left the station. The group continues along a major roadway picking up children along the way. Some parents join in the walk while others escort their children to the stop and leave when the bus arrives. There is no written schedule, however organizers plan to install signs along the route indicating stops and schedule.
Before the walking school bus began, approximately six children walked this route to school. Now on Walking Wednesdays there are between 25 and 40 children and the traffic congestion along the route has all but disappeared.