A Few October Highlights

Wow, I can’t believe November is nearly over and we’re already into the holiday season. We’ve been meaning to recap a few of the highlights from this past October, when many Seattle schools focused their efforts on IWalk and other walk to school programs.

While the recap is a little tardy, the events themselves were timely, and amounted to a hugely successful walk to school month at a number of local schools. The stories below just scratch the surface, as many schools hosted events. But hopefully these examples can provide some ideas for other schools to consider.

Here are a few highlights:

At West Woodland Elementary, an emphasis on “walking and wheeling” during October involved kids in all forms of sustainable commuting. Over the course of the month, 81% of West Woodland kids walked or wheeled to school at least once, up significantly from last year’s 62%.

According to organizers, this might have been due to the good weather early on, or it might have been due to the West Woodland fairies who surprised the kids with rewards. (Yes, it turns out that bike and walking fairies are beginning to multiply around the city… Bryant and Laurelhurst and now West Woodland too!)

A number of West Woodland parents donned fairy wings, sequined skirts, or other fun accessories and took turns “catching” kids walking or biking to and from school, rewarding them with stickers and Hershey’s kisses for their efforts. There was quite a buzz around school about the fairies and the parents had fun doing it, too.  Every walker received a small goody bag, and West Woodland held a bike blender smoothie party for the two classes with top participation. The top five individual walkers also received headlamps donated by Second Ascent.

Bagley walkers

At Bagley Elementary, the school’s “Let’s Move” program got up and running for the school year in October. Like West Woodland, this program involves both walking  and biking to school, including organized groups along several walking school bus routes. As Bagley works to promote active transportation choices, they also host school walks and runs for the kids on the Bagley track in the mornings as well. Bagley plans to run its Let’s Move program for the rest of the year.

Salmon Bay K-8 pulled together its first ever Walk to School day at the end of October this year. It was a huge success! The walk to school day involved five walking school buses and several of them had twenty students and 5-10 adults!  Several teachers & staff joined the buses as well, and Salmon Bay’s event even made the local news!

Salmon Bay had about 100 student walkers overall.  Organizers report that participation and encouragement by a new principal and assistant principal this year who are both dedicated to walking and biking to school helped tremendously. This is yet another reminder of how a supportive administration can really help these programs take off.

Bryant’s walking school buses were a huge success as well, with over 100 kids participating in one or more of the Friday morning buses. Bryant families gathered at four stations, each a few blocks from school, and from there walked to school en masse. One smaller group set up timed stops along about a one-mile route, ultimately joining up at the north station for the final walk to school. It was great fun!

On the final Friday, Bryant’s north walking bus added kid instruments (recorders, drums, even pots and pans) to enhance the parade. On that final Friday, the “Walking Wizard” paid a visit as well, to reward kids who walked.

And Laurelhurst had a fantastic month too, with a sequence of events that kicked off the month and provided support along the way, with a final wrap-up event as well. This all added up to huge participation, with the entire school joining a kick-off assembly and an “all-school walk” early in the month, and then nearly half of the students following through with sustainable commuting and tracking their trips over the course of the month.

Obviously we’re deeper into the rainy and dark season in Seattle now, but we’ve seen some sunny and dry periods like the first part of this week as well. Hopefully we’ll continue to see a few glimpses of sun over the course of the winter, along with a few opportunities to encourage families to break out their rain gear to walk or bike to school.

Hopefully these schools and others can build on the momentum of October and support families to explore getting to school under their own power over the course of the winter.

And for school organizers, the next few months are a perfect time to lay the groundwork for walk and bike to school programs for the coming spring!

Walk-to-school traffic jam!

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“Walktober” at Laurelhurst

Laurelhurst Elementary has one of the largest and longest-running walk and bike to school programs in Seattle. Parent volunteers have been at this for a long time, and have a good sense for what it takes to create excitement and get more kids to school under their own power. Once again, they have started right at the beginning of the school year.

The whole school took a walk…
together with Charlie the Chicken!

Laurelhurst has a tradition of celebrating “Walktober,” a month-long campaign they run in conjunction with International Walk to School Month. Organizers have found that getting families started thinking about transportation early in the year can help them “get off on the right foot” and develop good habits that can last throughout the year and beyond.

Laurelhurst’s Walktober program helps families establish a habit of walking, biking, scootering, or taking the bus to school early in the school year.  The program has not only helped develop sustainable habits, but also increased kids’ awareness of the importance of daily activity.

Laurelhurst typically begins the month with a kickoff event. This year the event included an assembly followed by an all-school walk around the school grounds, with the kindergarten classes leading the way. This is the first time they’ve started the month with an all-school event like this, and it was a huge success. What better way to educate kids about the fun of getting around under your own power than a walk with hundreds of friends and classmates?

Kicking things off with an assembly

The Walktober assembly included an entertaining and informative skit with “Charlie the Chicken” that was educational and well received by the students and staff. It turns out that Charlie is pretty funny. He can also ride a bike, a scooter, and even a unicycle. And reportedly he can dance too.

Not surprisingly, a large chicken with all those tricks plus a little knowledge about the benefits of walking and biking to school ends up being quite a hit with the kids and their parents. In fact, organizers heard from many parents after the assembly that their child came home from school and said, “We have to do Walktober!” Generating enthusiasm and a culture where the kids are pushing the parents to let them walk or bike is such a key to a successful program.

For the kickoff event, Laurelhurst had strong support from Feet First, and the children all received a tracking calendar and a healthy snack of fresh organic apples donated to the school from Metropolitan Market.

The rest of the month included more walk to school events such as meet-ups at local bakeries to walk to school as a group, culminating in an upcoming final celebration this Friday. The kids have been tracking their trips and looking forward to some recognition and prizes. There’s nothing like a little good-old-fashioned competition to get more kids walking. No word yet on how many kids have participated this year, but in the past they’ve had as many as 150 to 190 students join the fun! (Quick update — over 160 kids participated this year!)

Laurelhurst has had a fantastic walk and bike to school program for many years, so it’s fun to hear how it continues to grow and thrive! Way to go Laurelhurst!

Mmmm, yummy healthy treats.