Rain, wind, and snow didn’t stop Nebraskans from celebrating Spring Walk to School Day on Wednesday, April 17. More than 35 schools, community groups, and health organizations were scheduled to host events, with more than 9,000 elementary and middle school students expected to participate. Though inclement weather across the state caused some groups to postpone, many walked or biked anyway. At Crete Elementary School, for example, 394 kids braved the elements or walked laps in the gym.
“We’re glad schools and communities who experienced severe weather postponed their events for the safety of their students,” said Angela Barry, Safe Routes state coordinator. “But this is a good reminder that if you have the proper gear, every day can be a walk or bike to school day.”
Cory Grint, principal at Sargent Public Schools, expressed similar sentiments after deciding to proceed with the scheduled event. “It was cold, but everything went well, and it was a good reminder that we don’t just walk to school on the nice days.”
It seems that students agree. Schools that went ahead with their events saw a high level of participation. Prescott Elementary in Lincoln had 170 walkers, despite the cold and rainy conditions. And Bellwood Attendance Center teacher Shelli Eickmeier said the event in Bellwood received positive reception. “It was damp and chilly, but we had a fantastic turn out,” said Eickmeier. “At a quick glance, it looks like 90 percent of our building [participated].”
For those schools that cancelled events, the planning and preparation wasn’t lost. Safe Routes Nebraska helped groups transfer their Spring Walk to School Day registration to National Bike to School Day on May 8 instead. Both events seek to promote healthy lifestyles and encourage kids to choose active participation.
Hundreds of kids across the state strapped on helmets and wheeled their way to class on Wednesday, May 8 for the second annual National Bike to School Day. Though Nebraska had been experiencing some wild spring weather, Mother Nature calmed down long enough for the events to go on as planned. Schools everywhere took advantage of the opportunity to teach kids about the many benefits of choosing active transportation.
“Biking to school is a fun way to fit activity into a child’s day,” said Angela Barry, Safe Routes Nebraska state coordinator. “Studies confirm that just a few minutes of daily exercise makes kids healthier, happier, and better prepared to do well in school.”
At Sheridan Elementary in Lincoln, more than 160 kids pedaled their way to class, and more joined them around Nebraska and the country. As of May 6, more than 1,300 schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia had registered events on the official website.
“The success of the second annual National Bike to School Day illustrates just how many communities understand the importance of providing students with safe, healthy, and active options for their trip to school,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
Thanks to everyone who organized and participated in events in Nebraska. We hope your day was successful! If you took photos of your event, please share them on our Facebook page.
Every parent wants his or her kids to be healthy and active, but kids themselves can sometimes be hard to convince. This summer, follow these simple steps and set an example that encourages a healthy lifestyle.
It’s much easier to stay active when you move with a partner. Try doing fun things together, such as walking, biking, or playing ball. These are great cardiovascular activities for everyone to engage in while simultaneously spending some quality family time together.
Watch what you put in your shopping cart—you can’t expect children to choose healthy foods at home if you’re not helping them out at the grocery store. Try switching from whole milk to skim or grabbing pretzels instead of potato chips. And don’t forget to load up on the fresh fruits and veggies! Making healthy choices at the store will set your kids up for success.
Get off the couch
It can be easy to want to stay indoors when the temperatures climb outside, but it’s important to teach kids how to deal with less-than-ideal conditions. Come up with ways to move around inside, or head to the local swimming pool to beat the heat. Whatever you do, make sure you and your kids are working exercise into your routine every day.
Summer is the perfect time to start teaching your kids to make healthy choices. They look up to you and will follow your example—make sure you’re leading them in the right direction!
Q: I would like to start a Walking Wednesdays program in our community schools. I am putting together a list of benefits and tips for walking to school to share with parents, and I need a few additional resources. Can you help?
A: I’m so excited to hear you’re starting a Walking Wednesdays program! Safe Routes Nebraska and our partner organizations have several resources that might be helpful.
The Safe Routes brochure is a great resource to help communicate the benefits of walking and biking to parents. The brochure also includes tips for keeping kids safe on their way to school. We have professionally printed copies of the brochure available for free—you can order as many copies as you need here.
The “Map-a-Route” is another useful tool that helps students find the safest routes to school. This tool also allows you to share the route electronically with parents.
Q: How do we encourage kids who don’t live in the immediate vicinity of school to walk and bike? I always hear, “It’s too far for me to walk or bike to school.”
A: You might want to consult the “Too far to walk or bike?” guide. The guide will give you a few ideas on how to address this situation.
One of the best options for schools battling the distance issue is to organize park-and-walk stops closer to the school, so parents can park their cars and walk with kids the rest of the way to school. If you decide to use this approach, make sure to get approval before designating any area businesses as stops. It’s a great opportunity to form partnerships with businesses that may become valuable allies in your efforts.
Q: We have students who live so close to school that they aren’t going to get the recommended amount of exercise by walking there. What suggestions do you have to help them get more exercise?
A: Something that has proven to be successful is designating an area for kids to continue walking after they arrive at school. Many schools will open the gym, for example, and allow kids to walk the perimeter while they wait for the bell to ring. This not only benefits the kids who live close to school, but also kids who are driven to school.
You might also consider offering students the option to track all the miles they walk or bike outside of school to earn prizes and work toward a school-wide goal. This will encourage everyone to be more active around the clock. Consult Safe Routes Nebraska’s “Rewarding Routes” guide for tips on tracking student distances and providing incentives.
Many schools are also incorporating activity during the day. Studies have shown that physical activity is essential for student achievement. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain and brings in more oxygen, water, and glucose. It also releases endorphins, which have a positive effect on learning as well as mood, alertness, and mental functions. For more ideas on how to incorporate physical activity into the school day, check out Fuel Up to Play 60’s guide on physical activity breaks.
If you have a question that you’d like to ask Angela, email her at email@example.com.