More than consuming mass amounts of sugar and fat-filled foods, studies show that children are less active in general with far fewer children walking and biking to school-- activities that are both green and weight regulating. Since buses have become more the norm than not, a new group has concocted an idea that delivers both the convenience of dropping your child off at a bus stop and a little physical activity to help regulate weight gain--a walking school bus.
"I used to walk 5 miles to the bus stop... in the snow!" That's what my grandma always used to say whenever I'd complain about walking any distance greater than 200 feet. "You kids have it easy these days." She'd continue. Funny thing is, she also didn't understand what she considered to be my diet "obsession" or fitness "fanaticism"--a dedicated hour long exercise routine necessary to keep my body in check. Because the hard knock life of yesteryear was also a naturally active lifestyle, diet foods and exercise classes weren't required. She thought I had it easy! She would be shocked to see just how "easy" today's youth has it. Problem is, "easy" often translates to sedentary. More and more we are depending on polluting transportation, putting both the planet and our health at risk. These changing lifestyles and behaviors are lending themselves to inactivity and therefore a new disease that decades ago wouldn't have ever been considered: childhood obesity.
What is a Walking School Bus?
The concept is simple: Like a carpool without the car, a group of neighborhood children walk together to school, picking each child up along way; with adult supervision of course. It doesn't have to be a bus load of kids, even two or three families can figure out convenient meeting places, come up with a route, agree on a time table and a rotating schedule of volunteers, and create their own walking school bus. If your child prefers to bike ride, easy fix-- take the walking bus concept and create a bicycle train instead. It's a perfect alternative for families who live slightly further away from school.
Start Your Own Walking School Bus
There are a couple of basic things to think about before starting your own Walking School Bus system: 1. How many families live close enough to join? 2. Can you create a route that is safe? 3. How much time do you need to give yourself (taking slight tardiness into account) to get to school on time? 4. Will the Walking School Bus run both before and after school?
Then let others know about your Walking Bus--like school officials, community leaders, and law enforcement officers.
How to Choose a Safe Route:
1. Are there sidewalks and paths? 2. Is there too much traffic? 3. Is it easy to cross the street? 4. Are local drivers aware of and safe around pedestrians? 5. Does the route cross through safe neighborhoods? To help you create your route, check out this Walkability Checklist
Always remember, safety first. If your neighborhood isn't conducive to a Walking School Bus program, find other ways to encourage your child to be active, carpool, and get involved in green school programs.
For more on a green education, check out Back to School Green