Sometimes old ways can be best. Before the school bus was invented, most children walked to school. Today, in Rhode Island, Missouri, Iowa and other states, children are getting off the bus seats and back on their feet.
An adult volunteer leads the students on their walk to class. In some districts, the “walking school bus” goes to and from school every day. In other areas, the program is only once a week. Yet in every locale, participating children get a chance to exercise, see their neighborhoods and make new friends.
In the East and Midwest, some programs operate successfully where the weather can be rainy or snowy, where students must walk to school past abandoned buildings, on sidewalks littered with broken glass.
Here, the sun is almost always shining. We have our fair share of broken glass, and plenty of other trash, along the roads. But children on the way to and from school would almost certainly get to see a rainbow, or a butterfly.
An Associated Press story on the “walking school bus” featured in a recent issue of The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that, in 2012, between 30 percent and 35 percent of children who live within a mile of school walked back and forth. That was an increase of about 6 percent in five years.
If an even higher percentage walked, there would be the added benefit of cutting down on traffic congestion and air pollution.
Most programs across the country started simply, with just a few walking groups to begin. The website of walkingschoolbus.org explains how to find adult volunteers, get student participation and choose the best pedestrian route to school.
The weather here is great for being on foot. And it might be that one of those children who are impressed by a butterfly on the way to school will turn into a great scientist or artist.
— The Santa Fe New Mexican