On Wed., Oct. 4, you may see more students than usual walking, biking or rolling to school on their scooters or skateboards. That’s because Oct. 4 is International Walk to School Day, an opportunity to celebrate the many benefits of what’s known as “active transportation.”
The term “active transportation” refers to any means of getting around that is powered by human energy. “Active transportation” also describes the connection between healthy, active living and transportation choices.
Across the Cherry Creek School District, schools will mark Walk to School Day in a variety of ways. Some schools are organizing neighborhood walks, inviting special guests including local elected officials, and hosting festive, before-school activities. At Polton Elementary, for example, students and family members who walk, bike or roll to school will sign a banner noting their participation. They’ll be entered into a raffle for fun prizes and they’ll enjoy a schoolwide breakfast in the cafeteria before classes begin.
Dr. Megan Mistler, Wellness Programs liaison for Cherry Creek Schools, says the benefits of active transportation impact us individually and collectively. Students, for example, benefit physically, psychologically and academically.
“Research shows that physical activity before learning increases kids’ concentration and their ability to manage their behavior in the classroom,” Mistler said. “Getting 60 minutes of physical activity a day is the optimal recommendation, and if they choose to walk or bike to school they may get up to 30 minutes of that time, just by using active transportation to and from school.”
In addition, schools and communities benefit from active transportation through reduced traffic, pollution and stress during school drop-off and pick-up times.
Because of the benefits of active transportation, the Cherry Creek School District applied for and received a $30,000, two-year “Safe Routes to School” grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation. The funds are being used to provide educational materials and events that support active transportation. For example, students at some schools may learn about bicycle and pedestrian safety in their physical education classes. Other schools may work with Bicycle Colorado to host a bike rodeo to teach students how to ride and about safety.
Mistler explained that the district has two main goals it hopes to accomplish through the grant program. One is to increase the number of students using active transportation and the second is to partner with parents to educate students about active transportation safety. Parents can help organize a “walking school bus,” where groups of students meet at a specific location and walk with an adult to school.
“We need to identify the safest routes to school and teach our children the rules of the road, to use crosswalks and to practice safety skills at all times,” Mistler said.