Every year, COAST sponsors Walk to School Day at schools throughout the Santa Barbara area with the goal of raising awareness of walking and bicycling. Our hope is that by getting people to experience the health, environmental, and community benefits of walking or bicycling to school at least one day, they will be more apt to try it a second day and then a third. Where there is high participation, Walk to School Day can be magical, with the school parking lot being unnaturally vacant and neighborhood streets pleasantly and almost eerily quiet.
This past year the turnout on Walk to School Day was outstanding, and the most common adjective used to describe the event was “FUN!” Consider the elementary school reports we received from 2012:
- Mountain View Elementary: “We had 207 participants and they were all very excited and happy. We’ll have a raffle later today, and celebrated with balloons and banners this morning.”
- Hollister Elementary: “We had 214 students walk/bike/scooter/skateboard. That’s a record for us (over the last 3 years at least)!”
- Vieja Valley Elementary: “We had a great turnout today even though our 6th graders are away at camp this week. Next month we are planning on having a map displayed and having the kids pin where they ride or walk from. That will give us an idea of how far kids ride and how safe our routes are.”
The junior highs got into the spirit, too:
- Goleta Valley Junior High: “We had a great turnout: 387 students! That’s more than 1/3 of the school. Typically fewer than 200 students sign in at the table, so this represents a doubling from previous years.”
- La Cumbre Junior High: “Event was fun … we had 269 walkers, 18 bikers, and 40 bus riders.”
How does COAST get such participation? Primarily we identify and support parent volunteers within the schools, and provide them with resources, donations, and logistical help. The parent volunteers then work with their respective principals and PTAs to get the word out via newsletters, classroom and P.A. announcements, and “tele-parent” calls. Many schools make the event festive with balloons and music provided by the school band or orchestra. COAST donates snacks and raffle prizes to further entice participation. And a few schools, such as Foothill elementary, even organize parent-led “walking school buses” and “bike trains.” The result? Over 5,000 students participated in Walk to School Day in 2012!
Our hope is that Walk to School Day will make families and students realize how easy it is to walk or bike. A walk that might seem insurmountable at first turns out to be not just easy, but provides secondary benefits as well: quality time talking with one’s children; enjoying the weather and neighborhood; getting some exercise; reducing air pollution. Walking to school is a quality-of-life decision in every way. COAST says: Let’s make every day Walk to School Day!
So a big thank you to all the parent volunteers, students, principals, and administrators for organizing this event at their respective schools. For the record, the schools that participated were:
Adams, Adelante, Aliso, Brandon, Canalino, Carpinteria Family, Cleveland, Cold Spring, El Camino, Ellwood, Foothill, Franklin, Harding, Hollister, Hope, Isla Vista, Kellogg, La Patera, Monroe, Monte Vista, Montecito Union, Mountain View, Peabody, Santa Barbara Charter, Vieja Valley & Washington.
Junior high schools
Carpinteria Middle, Goleta Valley, La Colina, La Cumbre, Santa Barbara
Plus, a big “Thank You” to Clif Bars for supplying healthy snacks!
Biking at Goleta Valley Jr. High School
The student newspaper carried this article about the map:
Walk to School events at Cleveland School
COAST has been working with Cleveland School to build a Safe Routes to School Program under a grant from the Orfalea Foundation. On November 18, 2010, the school celebrated its first-ever Walk to School Day. We had 55% of the students walking, not counting all the parents and siblings that joined in the fun. (Before, the number had been around 15%.) Another indicator of success: A drop-off loop at 8:15 am, normally jammed with cars at this time, stood empty in the fog! The student leadership council posted cut-out footprints around campus to motivate their peers, teachers encouraged their kids, moms from the PTA and English Learner’s class helped greet kids and hand out raffle tickets. Best off all, Principal Mike Vail led a ‘Walking School Bus’ with more than twenty kids! (Pictured on right.)
Students that walk have been “caught” saying such things as, “I love racing my friends up the hill to school”, “Walking warms me up in the morning”, “My mom didn’t want to walk but I made her come with me” and “I feel better when I walk to school” – all great reinforcement that the children, and families, are appreciating the benefits that a simple walk to school can provide.