Walking Our Way to Wellness Success
On October 4, 2017, thousands of schools across America participated in International Walk to School Day. This annual event encourages physical activity, teaches skills to children so they can learn how to walk safely, increases awareness of walkability within a community, and most importantly, offers a time for the entire community to unite around health.
In Monett R-1 School District, we understand these benefits and the impact an active morning can have on our students’ academic success. That’s why, several years ago, we set out (on foot!) to create a new tradition: walking to school.
Stepping Into a New Tradition
Like many traditions, our walk to school program took time to develop and gain support. Many parents were apprehensive at first because our school had never offered "walking school buses" before and they lacked knowledge of walking safety within our community.
We hosted our first event in October 2014 where more than 180 students walked to school over the course of three days. Parents and community members quickly saw our success and were enthusiastic about participating in future events – and that they did!
We hosted four more walk to school day celebrations over the next two years, with a record turnout of 1,363 students in our fall 2016 event! From parents to police officers to city employees, the whole community now looks forward to our walk to school events each season.
Sustaining Our Success Through a Strong Wellness Policy
These walk to school events became a source of pride for our district, so we wanted to make sure that students and the community would benefit from them for years to come. That’s why we turned to our wellness policy: the sustainable piece to our wellness puzzle.
District wellness policies play an important role in guiding and informing district wellness efforts by establishing the policies and practices that empower students and staff to make healthy choices at school. To ensure that walkability was at the forefront of our wellness efforts, our district wellness committee – comprised of myself, the assistant superintendent, nurses, administrators, food service staff, board members, parents and community members – officially incorporated walking to school into our wellness policy in 2014.
Our current policy states that the district will support active transport to and from school by engaging in activities such as: designating safe or preferred routes to school, using walking school buses, providing instruction on walking safety to students and much more.
Walking Our Way to “America’s #HealthiestSchools”
One of our district’s greatest wellness policy challenges has been communicating its value to parents, teachers and community members. Fortunately, through a diverse wellness committee and the visibility of our walk to school events, we’ve generated great momentum behind a strong wellness focus throughout the district.
Because of our efforts, two of our schools were named to the 2017 list of America’s Healthiest Schools by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation! Monett Elementary and Monett Middle are creating healthier learning environments for students to thrive, one step at a time.
This article was written by Alex Severs, District Wellness Coordinator, Monett R-1 School District, Monett, MO.