|Location||Over 40 countries|
|End User||Primary and middle school students implementing agency|
|Advocate||David Engwicht (Creative Communications)|
|Funder||Federal-Aid Highway Program (US)|
Westvale Trailblazers take the walking school bus in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Photo: Green Communities
According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, over half of the students in the United States walked to school in 1969. Today, that number is less than 13 percent, and in one notable case, a Utah mother was arrested for allowing her child to walk to school alone. With this cultural change has come a rise in obesity, asthma and other health concerns.
The Walking School Bus is a return to the simple idea of walking to school. It addresses many of today’s most vexing challenges, while simultaneously instilling lifelong healthy habits in school-age children. In the early 1990s, Australian David Engwicht was disappointed in the government’s response to traffic issues and published Towards an Eco-City: Calming the Traffic. In this book he proposed the idea of a “walking school bus,” a group of students walking to school under the supervision of at least one adult. His message struck a chord and the first Walking School Bus debuted in Brisbane, Australia. Now thousands of students walk to school with the program. As of 2007, in Auckland, New Zealand, one hundred schools had Walking School Buses in operation with 4000 students participating.
A walking school bus takes students on an organized walk to school. It works just like a school bus route without the bus. Students join the Walking School Bus at defined meeting points along a route. In Columbia, Missouri, the PedNet Coalition oversees one of the largest Walking School Bus programs in the United States, with 11 elementary schools participating. In addition to parent volunteers, the program recruits students from the nearby University of Missouri to help supervise the routes. “Not only do the kids get exercise before school, they form trusting strong bonds with the college students that are there everyday to talk with the students,” says Amy Lewis, a physical education teacher. Lewis coordinates three routes for about 40 students.
Jenn Sonnenberg is the mother of a third grade boy who takes the Walking School Bus to school. “His teachers say that he gets the wiggles out and can sit down and focus,” she says.
St. Michael’s School, Halton Region, Ontario. Photo: Green Communities Canada
Students walk to Rockbridge school through a state park in Columbia , Missouri, USA. Photo: PedNet Coalition Inc.