For teachers, it can be a day without lesson plans. For kids, it can be like the book fair; an exciting outdoor happening that escapes the dreary boundaries of the four classroom walls.
Walk to School Day can be so many things all at once. For us, it is a reminder that walking is a mode of transportation too.
Think about it: How many of us have stopped to contemplate that walking is the only way we can get from place to place, using only ourselves? Walking may not be the latest trend, but it is pretty nifty for that alone.
That is why, every October, we get excited for Walk to School Day. This is an event started by the National Center for Safe Routes to School, held throughout the US (and abroad as International Walk to School Day, a.k.a. IWALK) in early October.
This was our 12th year bringing the celebration down here to Miami, in partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools. This time, we visited the wonderful Henry W. Mack / West Little River K-8 Center.
“The Mack K-8,” as it is dubbed by its staff and students, is yet another Miami-Dade school that harkens from an era when every kid walked to their school from home. Though it is just a block away from the present-day insanity of 27th Avenue industrial traffic, it is an island embedded in the comparative isolation of the neighborhood.
It really is a school built the way schools used to be, and the convenience has not been forgotten after all these years: Approximately 60%1 of the children enrolled in the school today still walk in from the surrounding neighborhood.
The relief this puts on drop-off congestion is unbelievable. I watched as Officer St. Surin of Miami-Dade Schools Police artfully and single-handedly managed drop-off traffic as it arrived in both directions on 84th Street. He has the flow of traffic and the school’s crosswalk down to a science. Everybody appeared to know him too – the kids, the parents, the staff. It is amazing what a smile and friendly wave can do.
These experiences are stark reminders of how our nationwide transportation safety crisis has virtually wiped out this peaceful, welcoming environment for our children. Pick up and dropoff zones around the country are clogged with automobiles driven by parents ostensibly trying to “get kids to school safely,” yet causing the safety issue in the first place, creating a vicious circle with no benefits.
That is not the case here, and it is a delightful thing; a beacon of possibilities for other schools.
Issues surrounding school traffic aside, let me get back to our Walk to School Day celebration. Given the logistical issues of walking school buses (which we greatly encourage all parents and PTA organizations to consider), we usually host perimeter walks. This year was no different.
The students from every class, along with their teachers and the school administration joined us on the basketball court to get ready, and we were joined by our wacky local mascots and the Miami Central Senior High marching band. Having been behind the camera for most of it though, I highly suggest you hear about it from Rafael, our WalkSafe team member who coordinated the whole event:
Perhaps he put a bit too much of himself into it.
Jokes aside, a Walk to School Day is not that hard to do. If this video (and our photo gallery, if you missed it) is encouraging you to host a similar event at your neighborhood school or in your school district, we recently published a complete Walk to School Day Guide to help you through doing just that:
The guide covers all the logistics necessary to host any of the three most popular types of Walk to School Day events – including perimeter walks, walking school buses, and drop-off encouragement – and it is an ideal read for anyone considering such an event.
As with our Bike to School Day guide, this booklet is – as always – completely free as well.
So now that you have the tools to hold your own event…what will Walk to School Day mean to you?