The school bus that runs on sneakers and snow boots
The Kingfield neighborhood of Minneapolis was excited when it gained a designated community school in 2009. For many children, this meant attending a school closer to home, just one of the many benefits of a neighborhood school. For one group of active parents, the boundary change meant they could create four “walking school buses” with designated routes and assigned adult volunteers.
“Even a small group of committed parents can make a big difference in organizing a program like this,” said Scott Bordon, a Lyndale Community School parent and volunteer coordinator for the walking school bus. “But the kids are the ones who really do the rallying by encouraging their friends at school to walk with them.”
Besides obvious benefits such as increased exercise, environmental awareness, and pedestrian safety education, the Lyndale walking school bus has some added kid-friendly bonuses. Incentives include “Fun Fridays” with parents playing musical instruments during the walk and handing out stickers that say, “I walked.” But kids mostly join the walking bus because it’s fun.
“We have children dragging their parents out the door because they don’t want to miss the walking bus,” Bordon said. “They love to walk with their friends to school.”
With some routes boasting up to 20-30 kids regardless of weather, Lyndale Community School has begun tying in academics with walking to school. Kids are encouraged to share what they like about walking during writing lessons such as poetry or in art classes.
“We see the benefits of walking showing up throughout the school day,” said Principal Ossie Brooks-James. “Kids have created posters and signs in art classes talking about the health and environmental benefits of walking, and they’ve even carried them along their routes.”