Roberts Elementary School in Medford celebrated its first Walk to School Day on Wednesday, May 14, 2014.
Four Walking School Buses met in different sections of town and students joined at “Bus stops” along the way. Led by parent and teacher Drivers in bright orange Safety Vests, over 65 children were part of the “buses” to walk with friends, and additional families walked on their own. Upon arrival at school, all walkers received a commemorative reflective keytag and congratulations from teachers, staff and School Committee member John Falco.
“It was a great way to start the day!” reported parent and “Bus Driver” Susan Powers Antwine.
“Everyone arrived at school with a smile on their faces. My daughter said about ¾ of her fourth grade class walked today, and those that didn’t wished they had,” said organizer Jen Lewis. “Our Crossing Guard reported much less traffic than normal, so we succeeded in cutting down traffic in our neighborhood while increasing healthy exercise and community spirit.”
“The kids loved it and it opened a lot of people’s eyes (including my own)- I thought the walk from my house would be over an hour but it was much less,” said parent Jonathan Hunt.
Plans are in the works to host another Walk to School Day in October, with weekly Walk to School Wednesdays beginning in Spring 2015.
The event was organized by Jen Lewis, Jessica Sciullo, Ellery Klein, and Jessica Rubenstein of the Roberts School PTO; Principal Johnson; Syrah McGivern from the Medford Board of Health’s Team Medford Program and Mass in Motion; and Nitza Otero from The Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School Program.
Walk to School Day events raise awareness of the need to create safer routes for walking and bicycling and emphasize the importance of issues such as increasing physical activity among children, pedestrian safety, traffic congestion and concern for the environment. In 1969, 48 percent of American students bicycled or walked to school, but today, less than 13% of children walk or bicycle to classes. In Massachusetts, almost one-third of high school and middle school students are overweight or obese. And in some communities, school-related traffic can contribute up to 25 percent of morning rush hour traffic volumes, as well as significant air pollution.
These walking and cycling events help to build connections between families, schools and the broader community. The Safe Routes to School programs create an environment of inclusiveness which emphasizes collaboration and community-focused approaches that build partnerships between advocacy groups, law enforcement, education leaders and public health departments. This model of inclusiveness has become a part of the greater culture of every community that participates in Safe Routes to School Programming. Massachusetts established the Commonwealth’s Walk and Bicycle to School Day in 2007. Since then, partner schools have conducted over 1000 walking and bicycling events to celebrate Walk and Bicycle to School Days. Currently, the Massachusetts SRTS program serves over 600 elementary and middle school in 168 communities throughout the Commonwealth.
For additional information or if you are interested in organizing a walking event elsewhere in Medford, contact Syrah at the Medford Board of Health: 781-393-2560 or SmCGivern@medford.org.
– Submitted by Jen Lewis