Strolling for safety
Almost 2,000 students from J. Russell Elementary School, Palouse Prairie School and other Moscow K-8 schools walked and biked to class with their friends and families Wednesday morning to celebrate International Walk to School Day. The event was organized by the Safe Routes to School organization in partnership with the University of Idaho, City of Moscow and local schools and was funded by the Idaho Department of Transportation.Children and adults walked, biked or joined walking school buses for their respective schools. They joined participants from numerous nations in honor of the global event. Forty countries celebrated iWalk last year and more than 4,000 events were held in the U.S.
Jen Pfiffner, assistant to the city supervisor, said she enjoys walking in the event with her children because staying active is important to her family.
“I do it because I know it’s fun, and I like leading my kids by example,” she said.
Pfiffner said she feels safe in Moscow, and one of its advantages is its favorable design for walking. Opportunities like iWalk are some of the reasons she’s happy to live here.
Brooke Lowry, Safe Routes to School UI coordinator, said iWalk benefits the community and environment as well as the body. Children can know their neighborhoods better by getting out of the car and moving through them, she said, and the exercise stimulates their minds for learning.
She said healthy activities can become family habits and she was happy to see so much parental involvement this year. The decision to walk or bike instead of drive also limits carbon emissions.
Lowry said iWalk steers people away from the stresses of traffic jams, regular school bus rides and other factors that keep them on the road.
“That’s frustrating, unhealthy and expensive for those who are stuck in the vehicles,” she said. “So we’re saying get out, get moving and walk with your friends.”
Lowry said this was the first year Moscow’s iWalk included walking school buses, which were groups of students led by adults on the way to each school. The adults engaged the children in “feet-on learning,” she said, and taught them principles of pedestrian safety such as crosswalk procedures.
The walking school buses program includes an ongoing photo challenge in which children take photos of their groups and enter them in a drawing for prizes, Lowry said. The winners will be drawn Nov. 4 and prizes will be distributed to the groups and their respective schools. She said the contest is meant to encourage continued healthy behaviors after iWalk ends.
Pfiffner said the city tallied the numbers of walkers and bicyclers for the days around last year’s iWalk, and there was a significant increase in those activities the day after the event.
UI athletes also participated in iWalk by handing out Clif bars to elementary students. Clif Bar donated toolkits across the nation for the event, Lowry said, which came with banners for students to sign, gluten-free fruit snacks, reflective stickers and coloring sheets with pedestrian safety tips printed on the backs.
Pfiffner said the turnout for the event is noteworthy.
“I’m blown away by how many athletes, elected officials and community members came out in full force to volunteer at this event,” she said.
Anthony Warn, Palouse Prairie School executive director, said safety for the school’s students is its highest priority, and Palouse Prairie stands behind the iWalk event.
“International Walk to School Day is a wonderful example of how schools and families can work together to promote safe and healthy ways to get to school,” he said. “We at the Palouse Prairie School are proud to support initiatives like iWalk.”
Matt Maw can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org