Before the alarm clock sounded, before the sun rose, some elementary students bounced out of their beds, too excited sleep. Once it was time to leave for school, they didn’t catch the bus or hop in mom or dad’s car. Flashlight in hand, they grabbed their parents’ hands and headed down the sidewalk to join their student peers around the world for International Walk to School Day on October 4.
About 25 students walk to Rocky Mount Elementary School on a normal school day. On walk-to-school day, that number jumped to more than 100. Rocky Mount’s PTA promoted the walk-to-school event to raise awareness about pedestrian safety as well as to encourage healthy behavior.
The success of Rocky Mount’s walk-to-school day last year helped the school’s PTA earn the National PTA School of Excellence award. The Rocky Mount Elementary PTA is one of only 16 school PTAs in Georgia to earn the recognition for the 2017-2019 award period.
Rocky Mount’s PTA isn’t waiting around until the next International Walk to School Day to get kids moving and excited about healthy living. The parent-led group has launched an incentive program, dubbed “Walk to the Top” to encourage kids and their families to do outside activities.
“It is a way to promote family togetherness outside with walking, biking, or hiking,” said Katie Simmons, Rocky Mount PTA president.
The PTA provided students and parents a list of open spaces in the area where families can hike and bike. The students will log their individual progress while the school charts the entire student body’s “Walk to the Top” achievements on a bulletin board, which will feature student photos from outdoor locations near and far.
“As we get more and more participation, we will have more and more photos of our students participating,” Simmons explained. “There will be monthly incentives for our students who turn in their papers signed that they did some of the events.”
In addition to encouraging Rocky Mount families to walk, hike, or bike outside of school, the PTA has plans for another walk-to-school day later in the school year.
While Rocky Mount Elementary students chatted with their parents on the recent walk-to-school day, a few miles away Murdock Elementary School students were walking to school with their parents too.
Murdock’s second annual walk-to-school day gave parent Jaime Griggs extra time to talk to her daughter Jesse.
“We really enjoy being able to do it because we ride the bus, and we live on a pretty busy street,” said Griggs. “There is not a sidewalk that allows us to walk safely to school. When they offer the [walk-to-school] days, we try to take advantage.”
Both Rocky Mount and Murdock elementary schools arranged alternative locations for parents to park and walk their students to school if they could not safely walk from their homes.
“I like to be able to get fresh air,” said Jesse, third grade. “It was cool, but it felt good. I liked it because I never get to walk to school, never.”
Jesse and her mom were among the group of approximately 700 Murdock parents and students who walked to school on International Walk to School Day. About 30 volunteers from organizations like Cobb Safe Kids and FedEx welcomed the walkers to school. Police officers helped direct the extra pedestrian traffic.
School staff members hope the walk-to-school days encourage students to make a habit out of walking to school.
“We want students to realize that it is fun to,” said Mark Baker, Murdock Elementary School Counselor.
The smiles on the kids’ faces showed they were having fun, but both parents and students also understand the other advantages of walking to school.
“Walking is really important because you can feel the fresh air and get your body moving and ready for the school day,” said fifth grader Nicole. “When I got here, I put on my safety patrol vest and handed out waters to all the kids who walked.”
Nicole walked to Murdock with her dad, Scott Smith, and twin brother.
“I think it is good exercise for the kids. It is also important for them to understand safety,” Nicole’s dad said.
Read about how Murdock promoted pedestrian safety during last year’s walk-to-school day: http://cobbcast.cobbk12.org/?p=16036