October is International Walk to School Month and students at Basinview Drive Community School took to the sunny streets of Bedford on Oct. 2 for the official launch.
Amidst morning commuters, yellow buses and early autumn sunshine, students shuffled their way to the LeBrun Centre and Atwood Terrace cul-de-sac, to make the walk along with school principal Ken Marchand and a few teachers.
“We walk to school everyday in any weather … but not hail or lightning storms,” says grade six student Gillian and her sister Rory. Their friend Kate says her walk usually takes about 20 mins. “We like walking to school, but not really in the winter because it’s cold,” smiles Gillian.
Kothai Kumanan made a special drive to get her kids to the IWALK launch. She lives at the other end of Bedford and her children are usually bussed. “If I could walk more, I would,” says her grade four daughter, Meera O’Neill.
International Walk to School Month (IWALK) aims to encourage students to walk to school as an active healthy living and sustainable transportation activity. Hosted by Halifax Regional School Board, along with the Halifax Regional Policy, Halifax Municipality, RCMP, the Ecology Action Centre and Child Safety Link, Trish Smith of HRSB says, “it is also an opportunity to promote road safety for both pedestrians and motorists.”
Basinview Drive Community School is one of Ecology Action Centre’s travel planning schools and Janet Barlow says they’ve created an active transportation plan for the school community and have been putting place initiatives to try and get more kids walking and biking to school.
“We try to walk as often as we can and we often bring a couple other children along,” says Leah Castel. Her children, Jane and Mitchell walk about a kilometre and half everyday. “It takes about 25 mins. We bundle up and we go … October is a great month because you’re not overheating and it’s a great way to start the day with fresh air, activity and it gets the brain started … and it gets the dog walked!”
About 400 students, or two-thirds of the student population are walkers, according to Marchand, who joined the event. “There are routes and pathways throughout the community and parents tend to walk with their kids … they have conversations with their children, find rocks and it provides fond memories for children and their parents,” says Marchand.
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Top three mission of IWALK, according to Janet Barlow at Ecology Action Centre:
- It’s about the environment: “We care about reducing the amount of cars on the road, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that come from that, and biking and walking is one way to do that.”
- It’s about safety: “Pedestrian safety is a big issue in Halifax, especially around crosswalks. We want to make it safe for kids to do this.”
- It’s about physical activity: “Our kids don’t get enough physical activity and the walk to and from school each day can actually provide a large portion of the daily physical activity recommendation, which is about 60 mins.”