Feature

International Walk to School Day

ETFO Voice

Thirty countries took part: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Namibia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, The United States, Wales and Zambia.

International Walk to School Week is an annual event promoting safety, physical activity, and environmentally sustainable transportation to and from school. It is part of the Active and Safe Routes to School (ASRTS) program. ASRTS enjoys support from the police, public health units, local councils and district school boards. Working with parents, interested schools explore their neighbourhoods and map out the best routes for children to take when they walk to school. Children generally walk in groups or with an accompanying adult.

This was the first year that the international event promoted a week of walk-to-school activities. Walk-to-school programs have grown rapidly in the three years since IWALK was established in 2000. As well as suggesting how school communities can become active, IWALK has developed resources, and an award that recognizes initiatives encouraging children to walk to and from school. The idea is to create healthier, safer, and more sustainable communities. The first ever runner-up for the new award was Morton Way Public School, Brampton. The award was announced in March 2004.

"Every week for the past three years, Morton Way has celebrated 'Walking Wednesdays, encouraging students to walk to school with their friends, family, or caregivers. Parent volunteers lead 'Walking School Buses' and on 'Walking Wednesdays' of each month, parents and grandparents are invited into the school for refreshments. This encourages family members to walk to school, and helps develop a sense of community. On Wednesdays, between 88 percent and 98 percent of students walk to school," says Kirstin Schwass, the school's physical education teacher.

Morton Way students also walked every day during Earth Week, and will walk again during Environment Week in June.

The next International Walk to School Week is set for October 4 -8 , 2004. To learn more, visit the official website at www.iwalktoschool.org.

The website includes resources such as health information, specifics on walking events around the world, a checklist to help determine how friendly a community is for walking, and a registration form for IWALK 2004. Schools registering by June 30 will be entered into an Early Registration Draw.

In Ontario, ASRTS is managed by the Green Communities Association ( www.gca.ca). For more information, contact Jacky Kennedy, program manager of Active & Safe Routes to School, Ontario. Tel: 416-488-7263 E-mail: info@saferoutestoschool.ca.

Morton Way Public School was runner-up for the first ever IWALK award.

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