Event Report: Walk to School Month at West Woodland

bike fairy fall 13 (Small)by Polly Freeman, West Woodland Elementary

For the month of October, West Woodland students tracked their non-driving trips to school (biking, walking, scootering, bussing) on spreadsheets outside each classroom door.

walkie award at West WoodlandOn International Walk to School Day, we met walkers and bikers outside the school with free breadsticks donated by Great Harvest Bakery. We moved away from giving small trinkets as incentives this year—instead, two high-participating classrooms (K-2 and 3-5) received the first annual “Walkie” award – a golden tennis shoe mounted on a decorative base created by one of our artistic parents and her team of junior artists.

Also, five top walkers and wheelers received headlamps donated by Second Ascent. Winning classes and individuals were recognized during a monthly all-school announcement over the intercom, which reinforced their participation and honored them in front of their peers.we met walkers and bikers outside the school with free breadsticks donated by Great Harvest Bakery.

The “Bike Fairy” was also spotted during Walk and Wheel Month, “catching” walking and wheeling students, and awarding them Hershey’s Kisses and stickers that say, “I got Kissed by the Bike Fairy.”

Kids remembered the Bike Fairy from last year, and were thrilled to spot the Fairy as they walked to and from school.

Breadsticks this Way!

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Recap of Fall Info Sharing Meeting

Folks from 9 schools and several other organizations attended the information sharing session earlier this month. Many other folks expressed interest, but couldn’t make it due to a variety of conflicts. This time of year is especially busy in the school communities!

The major topics we discussed included:

Ballard Bikes
The new Ballard Bikes program is a multi-school collaboration to get kids biking and walking to school at several Ballard schools (currently seven). The focus is on year-round encouragement and sharing of resources, as well as creating a “bigger buzz” about active commuting in Ballard. The schools have already co-hosted a bike rodeo at the Ballard Neighborhood Greenway opening, and are holding a bike to school kick-off event on September 28 at Salmon Bay K-8.

International Walk to School Month and IWalk
October is International Walk to School Month. All local schools are encouraged to participate. One way to get plugged in is through Feet First, which has many resources available to help plan and run events. Schools can use a variety of approaches, ranging from a single day event, to weekly or month-long events to encourage walking to school. Wednesday, October 9, is International Walk to School Day. To register an IWalk event, go to http://www.walkbiketoschool.org/node/add/event.

SDOT Mini-grants
It is almost mini-grant season. Last year 29 schools and organizations received grants — a record year! At the meeting, Seattle Department of Transportation requested input on the size of grants, the outreach flyer they are using, etc. There was no shortage of ideas; two good ones were (1) to consider changing the timing of the annual grant program so it coincides with the school year, and (2) to augment the existing annual grant program with smaller “quick start” type grants so that new schools could apply any time. The tentative date for applications for 2014 funding is October 25.
School Road Safety Initiative
The City of Seattle’s School Road Safety Initiative involves both planning and implementation to improve traffic safety in and near school zones. The major elements are a city-wide plan, traffic safety plans around twenty schools, and Safe Routes to School projects. The work will address all five “E’s” of Safe Routes to School — engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement, and evaluation.  Funding for both planning and implementation is coming from traffic speed cameras installed in school zones, and currently $14.8 million is anticipated for 2013-14., with a mayor proposed list of projects under review at this time as well.
Folks in attendance shared information on a few other upcoming events and initiatives as well, including tonight’s Green Your School Fair at Lincoln High School.
Thanks to all who could attend, and to everyone else who expressed interest as well. Here’s to another year of walking and biking to school!

 

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!

It’s Walktober!

International Walk to School Month begins today! Spread the word at your school and let’s get Seattle kids walking.

Bagley Elementary had three walking school buses last year and are adding some more for 2012-13.

At West Woodland, they’ve had a big walking school bus going for years! They’ve established some great guidelines to make sure everyone is safe and accounted for, and has fun as well.

Even at bike-crazy Bryant Elementary, walking school buses are all the rage this fall! Bryant has established four stations — each a few blocks from school — and parents are hosting meet-ups every Friday, and then families are walking to school en masse.

At Dearborn Elementary, in past years they’ve even had the principal and teachers lead their walking school buses!

If you want more info or some examples from these schools, let us know and we’ll set you up!

The Seattle School District passed a new transportation policy last year that requires each elementary and K-8 principal to establish at least one walking school bus by the 2013-14 school year. Let’s hold them to it, but also show them how it’s done by getting out and walking this fall.

Walking school buses can be simple or complex. In the old days, we just walked to school, right? But often we picked up friends along the way because that made it more fun. In its essence a walking school bus is no more than that: just a fun and healthy way for a group to get to school together. It can have timed routes with multiple stops, or just be a simple meet-up location for several families to leave together. Or a “bus” can be informal, with friends and neighbors just electing to walk to school together.

It’s never too late to rally some friends to walk or bike, or even to organize a small event. Feet First has made some nice template posters available that can easily be adapted, and posted at your school.

Let’s get Seattle school kids walking now! What are you doing at your school to help build this kid-powered movement?

Even Bryant’s walking. Well, and biking too!

Another awesome info sharing session

Last week’s walk.bike.schools meeting was awesome! It was great to hear ideas from Ballard and throughout Seattle to get more kids walking and biking.

We heard from Loyal Heights Elementary about their bike to school program, along with some of their ideas for the coming year. These include creating more targeted education on road skills for student bikers, a possible after school bike club, perhaps some group rides on the proposed Ballard Greenway, and a bike swap.

Feet First described how October’s IWalk works, with lots of specific examples of events, promotional materials, etc., that other schools have used. Did you know that October is International Walk to School Month, and Oct. 3 is International Walk to School Day? A great time to organize a walk  event, or just to walk to school yourself! (And not to worry, biking or really any kid-powered commuting counts.)

The IWalk concept is very flexible: it’s an umbrella that supports walk-to-school organizers in putting on events for a day, all month, or anything in between.

We also heard an inspiring story from Dearborn Park Elementary, where teachers and even the principal have led walking school buses. Very cool!

The meeting also included a roundtable discussion where folks could share what they are working on and  ideas for collaboration. Not surprisingly, lots of great ideas emerged:

  • A possible multi-school bike festival, perhaps with a bike swap, fun events Fiets of Parenthood style, and a sign-up table for various schools’ bike to school programs.
  • Partnering with the Undriver Licensing project, which could encourage middle or high school students to further commit to walking and biking by getting their Undriver License!
  • Tieing into the Washington High School Cycling League. Ballard High is a member, and a similar league may be launched at the MS level
  • Connecting with the Seattle Public Library, especially the neighborhood branches

Folks were clear they want to continue to share information and build a citywide coalition of school programs. To that end we agreed to get together again in early November to debrief on October events, and to collaborate between now and then through this blog and the walk.bike.schools google group.
There was particular interest in getting more information and examples for walking school buses and bike trains, so look for more info here soon.

Our meeting got some nice press coverage as well; check it out!

Thanks to all who could join us, and to Loyal Heights for hosting!

Let’s load up the bike racks…
and wear out some sneakers too!

Plan Your Walk or Bike to School Event

There’s no time like the present to begin hatching a plan for a walk or bike to school event this Fall. The event could be large or small, simple or complex, and for one day or an entire month.

September and October are such great months for kid-powered commuting, but they’re also busy times with curriculum nights, introductory coffees with the principal, ice cream socials to meet other parents, and just a huge range of back-to-school activities. So start planning now to instill walking and biking as part of the back-to-school tradition at your school.

To a large extent, organizing a campaign to get more kids walking and biking to your school comes down to planning a series of events throughout the year. Each event can build on the last, generating enthusiasm among both the kids and their parents. Starting in the Fall, and then providing some continuity from one event to the next is helpful to create and sustain momentum for an entire school year of kid-powered commuting.

Planning a successful event involves thinking ahead to what you want to accomplish, and how best to pull it off. Key elements include:

Determining the basic scope of the event. Will it be a bike rodeo? Walking school bus? Treats before school for kids who walk or bike? Coming up with a general vision and a creative name to match is a great start. Fixing on a date well in advance is critical too, so you can enlist volunteers and get the word out.

Putting together a team. The best events are pulled off by a group of folks with a common goal. You might want to have a smaller core team that helps with the planning, and then a larger cadre of volunteers to help with the event itself. Most team members will likely be from your school community (parents and staff), though some schools have reached out and involved others in the broader community, notably older students who might be alumni who are excited to help out at their old school, or perhaps middle or high school students who are interested in community service.

Determining what materials you need. Treats? Prizes? Outreach materials and signs? Think ahead, and figure out what it will cost and where to get the funding.

Coming up with an outreach and advertising strategy. How will you get the word out? For school events, we’ve often found that using a variety of approaches works really well. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket! What if you advertise in the school weekly, but it turns out most folks don’t read it? Good old fashioned enthusiastic word of mouth is particularly effective, so talk it up! It also can help a lot to get the school administration on board, maybe even enlist the principal as a spokesperson. Who can resist the principal’s call to the entire school to walk to school in October?

Lay out the precise details for the event itself. What activities will occur? When and where? Who needs to be involved in each one? Figure out whether you need multiple stations and volunteers, whether everything will happen at once, or if there is a sequence to the event.

Decide if you want to track participation and how. Punchcards? Parents counting bikes or walkers at key locations? Sign-in sheets?

Come up with a plan to celebrate your success!

Hope this helps with your planning, and huge thanks go to Feet First for this basic framework of event planning (though I’ve embellished a bit!). The key is to start your planning early.

Let’s share some more ideas for Fall walk and bike events at this week’s plannng meeting. And if you have ideas to share, let us know and we can expand this post to include them.

Until then, good luck!!

Kicking Off Another School Year

Happy back to school week!

For most of our Seattle schools, this is the first week back in action. Some others got a head start and began the 2012-13 school year last week. Here in NE Seattle, high school students started Tuesday, but for middle and elementary school kids, today is “opening day!”

It’s a great time to begin encouraging walking and biking to school. The weather is great, the long-range forecast looks excellent, and families and students are full of enthusiasm. October is International Walk to School Month and an opportunity to participate in IWalk and other walk to school programs. These first months of the school year are an excellent time for biking as well, so get creative and encourage families to do either.

Walk.bike.schools is planning a Fall kickoff meeting, so look here for details in the near future. We are currently thinking of meeting later this month to compare notes, share tips, and build on each others’ creative energy for getting Seattle’s kids walking and biking. As always, anyone interested in getting Seattle kids walking and biking is welcome to come and participate.

In the meantime, if you’re kicking off a walk or bike program at your school and have some ideas to share, let us know.

Happy back to school week!!