Sidewalks filled with children walking to school
They arrived hand-in-hand, wearing tennis shoes and carrying backpacks. Some walked with parents; some as part of a migrating mass; others shuffled along in small groups with classmates.
Throughout Idaho, children made their trek to school on foot Wednesday rather than carpooling or riding in their parents’ SUV. From Sandpoint to Idaho Falls and many communities between, children participated in the annual International Walk to School day.
One of the largest turnouts came in north-central Idaho where six schools registered to participate, including Palouse Charter, Moscow Charter, West Park Elementary, Russell Elementary, McDonald Elementary and Moscow Junior High. Teachers at West Park and Russell took the observation a step further, literally, by incorporating “lively laps” led by physical education teachers.
Walker planned to join the art teacher at Moscow Junior high to create a mural for all participants to add their footprint and signature.
Seventh-grader Jacob Kulczar awakened to a 4:30 a.m. alarm so he and a friend could leave early enough to walk the 12 miles to school. Moscow Mayor Nancy Chaney greeted children outside the junior high and passed out chalk for sidewalk art.
Children as young as 3 and 4 walked with their parents in Lapwai.
Parents and teachers organized a “walking school bus” at Hillcrest Elementary School in Boise; participants at Trail Wind Elementary qualified for a day pass to the YMCA. Students in Sandpoint invited nearly 100 area elected officials and decision makers to join them in their Wednesday walk. School bus drivers in Sandpoint allowed children to exit before they arrived at school so they could walk the remainder of the way with adult chaperones.
Approximately 30 schools throughout Idaho registered to take part in the event.
Promotion of a formal program to encourage walking to school began in Hertfordshire County, England, in 1994. Three years later the Partnership for a Walkable America embraced the idea by launching its first walk in Chicago. Later in 1997, Los Angeles also organized a walk. The same year, Walk to School Week received its own dedicated week in mid-May in Great Britain.
More than 170,000 Americans from 58 communities across the U.S. participated in a Walk to School activity in 1998. Ireland, New Zealand and Canada joined the international activity the following year.
The first International Walk to School Day event took place Oct. 4, 2000, in Canada.
“Communities across the country are successfully using Walk to School to increase awareness, build vital community coalitions, identify barriers and solutions and to generate support for permanent change,” according to "iwalk," the international Walk to School organization.
“Walking is a great way for adults and kids to be active,” according to the U.S. Walk To School organization. “Lack of physical activity is a major cause of chronic illness and death for our country’s adults...
“There are plenty of great reasons to walk to school – less traffic, safer streets, cleaner air – but one of the best is that children and parents will be healthier… Walking to school is a missed opportunity. Roughly 10 percent of children nationwide walk to school regularly. Even among those kids living within a mile of their school, only 25 percent are regular walkers.”