Be a "walk star" by participating in International Walk to School Day Wednesday, Oct. 3. This fun, healthy, no-cost event encourages everyone - students, parents, teachers, community members and organizations - to get out on sidewalks and trails. Participating with school children emphasizes the importance of increasing physical activity, teaching pedestrian safety, showing concern for the environment, reducing traffic congestion; and building connections between families, schools and communities.
This year's International Walk to School Day is expected to draw participation from 5,000 schools from all 50 states. Walkers will unite with children and adults in 40 countries around the world.
This event is an opportunity for families with children who typically ride a school bus, but live in areas with bike-friendly paths to school, to try walking and bicycling to school. If students still need to ride a bus, many schools participate by arranging for school buses to drop off students at a nearby park or other safe location to finish the trip on foot. The drop-off option can also be used for students who are usually driven to school in private automobiles.
To get involved, register for the event at www.walktoschool.org. The site includes a variety of useful information for parents and participating schools. Data collected from registrations will be used to make future programs stronger.
International Walk to School Day also encourages parents and community members to help schools conduct a walkability assessment of their neighborhoods. The Iowa Department of Public Health, through its Iowans Fit for Life Program, has developed a walkability checklist to help walkers assess what makes the walking environment inviting and safe, as well as identify existing barriers. After the assessment, school staff can help students become advocates for a more walkable community. The walkability assessment is available at www.idph.state.ia.us/iowansfitforlife/common/pdf/access_your_community.pdf
To encourage participation in Walk to School Day, the Iowa Department of Transportation has free materials available, including "I'm a walk star" stickers, erasers and zipper pulls, and "Walk to School" pencils and sneaker stickers. To order any of these items, contact the Iowa Bicycle Coalition at email@example.com.