Follow the Moose for a Safe Route to School
They’ve been dubbed “Moose Routes,” but they didn’t get that designation because of the wild animals migrating through the area.
These biking and walking paths got the name because they provide safe routes for kindergarten through 12th grade students traveling to Moose Lake Community School.
A large moose is painted on sidewalks leading to school, and signs with the phrase “Follow the Moose for a Safe Route to Moose Lake School” are posted along the route, thanks to Safe Routes to School support from the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) and Carlton County SHIP, which is part of Healthy Northland, the SHIP collaborative in northeast Minnesota.
Moose Lake’s Safe Routes to School Program started in 2010. Community meetings to create an updated action plan begin in April because the school will be moving to a new building in 2017.
“SHIP influenced our whole thought process on how students and staff commute to and from school,” said Ann Haugen, a physical education teacher at Moose Lake School. “These students often don’t have a safe biking route.”
SHIP staff has leveraged the work of Safe Routes to School to secure funding and education resources. That included funding from the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School Program through a non-infrastructure implementation grant to establish a county bicycle fleet. The money was used to purchase 40 bicycles, a trailer, helmets and supplies to be used to teach walking and biking safety curriculum in Moose Lake and the five other school districts in the county.
A large moose is painted on sidewalks leading to school, and signs with the phrase “Follow the Moose for a Safe Route to Moose Lake School” are posted along the route.
Biking and walking to school helps students get focused
Safe Routes to School encourages kids to get more physical activity by walking and biking to school. An added benefit is that when kids arrive at school they are ready to learn.
“We know that walking and biking help prevent obesity in students by providing regular exercise,” said Meghann Levitt, a SHIP coordinator for Healthy Northland. “It also increases students’ focus for learning during the school day.”
Moose Lake School staff were trained on best practices to support biking and walking. The school worked with Arrowhead Regional Development Commission staff to provide program planning assistance along with bike and helmet safety education for third graders. The school, in partnership with the community, also held bike rodeos, where students learned bike skills on a safe course and received bike tune-ups and bike helmets. Walk/Bike to School Days are held in spring and fall.
During Walk/Bike to School Days buses drop students off at the city arena (about a mile from school). Staff organize the children into groups and accompany them on their trek to school. There are also two walking school buses and two biking school buses that begin from various locations around town, “picking” students up along the route to school.
“Parents out in the country even haul their children and their bikes to town for the Walk/Bike to School Day,” Haugen said. “One student learned to ride a bike for the first time thanks to SHIP because we now offer a bicycling unit in school.”
That unit is a part of the new statewide education curriculum Walk! Bike! Fun! for Physical Education classes to complement Safe Routes to School efforts.
The city created a brochure highlighting its active living efforts and the designated safe biking and walking routes. In addition, the city installed School Zone and Speed Limit signage on streets leading to school. Safe Routes to School efforts are led by a coalition that meets monthly, made up of school personnel, city staff and community members.