If you’re looking for an easy, low-cost wellness idea for your school, plan a Walk and Bike to School Day. The National Center for Safe Routes to Schools organizes both a nationwide Walk to School Day and a Bike to School Day each year, but you can choose any day of the school year to encourage students to use their feet to get to school.
As a member of the PTA Wellness Committee at my children’s school, I’ve helped plan several Walk and Bike to School Days. It’s a simple and fun way to help families get more activity. Though some children have to come to school by car or bus, there may also be kids who live within walking distance but don’t walk because of time constraints, safety issues, or other reasons.
How to plan a Walk and Bike to School Day:
1. Get the OK: Go to your school’s principal and PTA with the idea and get everyone on board.
2. Pick a date: Get your date approved by the principal so you’re sure there aren’t other school events that might conflict. Wednesdays have worked well for us in the past, since there’s time earlier in the week to send out reminders.
3. Spread the word: Start promoting your Walk and Bike to School Day at least one week in advance. It’s important to give parents plenty of notice, since some may need to adjust their schedules that day to walk or bike. We’ve promoted the day through flyers sent home in backpacks and through the school’s newsletter and Facebook page. The school secretary also did a robo-call to all families the night before with a quick reminder.
4. Suggest creative solutions for families: Parents who have to drive their kids to school can park a couple blocks away. If safety is an issue, neighbors can form groups to walk kids together–or bike “trains” to bike together. Children who ride buses can be invited to walk around the playground with the principal or other staff member upon arrival to get extra activity too.
5. Gather volunteers: Find at least 4-5 parents to be at school the morning of the event. Have them arrive in plenty of time to greet the first walkers and bikers. You may want to designate one parent to help children lock up their bikes.
6. Recognize walkers & bikers: In the past, we’ve done this a couple of different ways: Parents have made shapes of footprints and bikes with construction paper. Kids who use their feet to get to school write their name on a footprint or a bike and hang it on a banner displayed in a hallway. Even simpler: Use the template on the Walk To School Day website to print out stickers using simple mailing labels (you’ll need to register for a free account to get access to the template). Anyone who comes to school by foot or bike (or scooter or skateboard!) gets a sticker.
7. Celebrate: Designate a prize for the school if a certain number of students come by foot (the prize should be for the whole school, since some children have to come by car or bus). A fun reward will also motivate more kids to participate. We have always chosen an active prize: an extra recess or a longer recess. In the past, we’ve also worked with our local Safe Routes to School coordinator to distribute freebies to students, like free bike helmets and locks.
- Get more information about planning a Walk and Bike To School Day
- Learn more about Safe Routes To School
- Find more easy ideas for School Wellness events and programs
Does YOUR school host a Walk and Bike to School Day? I’d love to hear about your experience!
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