International Walk to School Day: 5 “steps” to celebrating safe and healthy routes to school
By Emily L. Hay Hinsdale, President, Sidewalk Stompers, Inc.
Oct. 7 is International Walk to School Day! Since 1997, students across the United States have participated in this global event, walking and biking their way to school for a healthy and active start to the day.
This year brings unique challenges in staying active during a school day. Your students may be learning at home. They may be learning at school. Wherever they are working their minds, remember how important it is to work their bodies. Increasingly sedentary lifestyles in America have resulted in this frightening fact: One third of American children are obese. With obesity and asthma listed among the most dangerous underlying conditions for COVID, the need to get kids walking, instead of sitting in cars, is greater than ever.
How can you and your families participate in Walk to School Day this year? Here are a few ideas:
Get out and walk! Yes, it’s that easy. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 60 minutes of physical activity a day for children to build stronger bodies and better mental health. Making exercise part of a daily routine instead of restricting activity to sports practices means children are more likely to continue to include exercise in their lives as they get older. Parents: Daily walks are good for you, too!
Invite friends to join you. Even socially distanced and masked, being outside with neighbors and classmates can help children feel less alone during an isolating time. Zoom classes and more static classrooms can be lonely experiences. Outside on a walk, children have time to be free and interact with each other more safely.
Learn about your neighborhood. Do you have sidewalks? Do you have crosswalks? Do you have a safe way to cross a busy street? Plan out your walking and biking routes so you know how to stay safe on a walk. Report danger zones to Sidewalk Stompers! (See below.)
Read a book about a great walk. Reading can give you ideas about how to make daily walks fun! Try a few of these favorites, but you’ll notice a lot of books talk about children walking to school. “I Walk with Vanessa” by Kerascoët; “Ready, Set, Skip” by Jane O’Connor; “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats; “Look Both Ways” by Jason Reynolds.
Take a virtual walk with Tampa Mayor Jane Castor! On Oct. 7, Mayor Castor will be showing us her walk to school. She’ll tell us about how she has fun on a walk, about staying healthy and protecting the planet, and share some safe walking and biking tips. Watch out for this great video and take a walk with the Mayor!
Please visit our Facebook page (Sidewalk Stompers) and website (www.sidewalkstompers.org) to learn more about how your school can partner with our organization for fun and rewarding walk to school programs.
Sidewalk Stompers, Inc. is a nonprofit dedicated to getting more children walking and biking to school. Our goal is a new generation of healthy and active children who can understand and use different kinds of transportation to build a more equitable and sustainable future.