Choose the IWALK Campaign That’s Right for Your School

This is the third posting in a series of blogs about International Walk to School (IWALK) events, intended to help schools, parents and volunteers organize IWALK events in October.  Learn more about the Feet First IWALK Challenge here.

Next step for IWALK:  Planning

As you plan your IWALK celebration, now is the time to visualize and design the event.  What main characteristics do you want to see for your event?  Do you want a one-day gala?  A once-a-week structure (ie, “Walking Wednesdays”)?  Or a month-long campaign with punch cards and prizes?  Get your planning team together and explore the possibilities.  Your event will begin to take shape, and the next steps will unfold.

Consider these options as you brainstorm your event:

Large Walk to School Day group Maple ElThe One-Day event is and excellent option if you’re just beginning to promote walking to school.  The structure is simple: get as many people as possible to walk to school on the same day.  Choose at least one meeting place about a half-mile away from the school so a large group can walk together. Ask your Principal or teachers to lead the walk; families will be extra motivated to join the walk. This is a nice opportunity to invite a local celebrity, policy maker, or mascot (Feet First Chicken) to come along.  One-day events are attractive stories for media coverage.

Walking Wednesday group shot with bannerThe Once-a-Week event features a weekly emphasis day:  Walking Wednesdays or Fuel Free Fridays, for instance.  The campaign lasts a month, resulting in four or five walk-themed days and opportunities to build participation.  Assign fun themes to each week (i.e. “scavenger hunt day” or “trash pick-up day”) to further engage students.  This structure works well with organized walking groups, also called “Walking School Buses”, and is especially effective if your neighborhood has traffic safety issues, as routes can be planned to avoid difficult areas.

Concord Walk Around the World displayThe Month-Long event works well for tracking miles and progress, and is a great way to turn an event into a habit.  Students use punch cards to keep track of the number of walks they take over the course of a month, and volunteers collect that data on designated days.  At the end of the month, the data is compiled and can be used to tell a great story:  How many miles did we travel collectively?  How much gas did we save? How much pollution did we prevent from going into the atmosphere?  While this structure requires more organization and consistent volunteer presence, it can require very little of the school staff and is therefore a comfortable fit for some schools.  It works well in a relatively walkable neighborhood where many students live within the walk boundary.

Examples of fun campaign choices:

Here are some highlights from past Feet First IWALK campaigns.

  • A one-day event at West Seattle Elementary had the nearby Denny Middle School marching band perform for students as they got to school.
  • A Walking Wednesday campaign at John Muir Elementary School featured 4 walking school buses, one of which began at the local Safeway.  Parents who usually drove could park there, walk the short half-mile to school, and then return to shop or catch a bus to work after the event was complete.
  • A month-long campaign at Concord International School collects student miles on punch cards and shows the school’s collective progress on a hallway display.  The campaign, which is repeated in October and May each year, has covered enough miles to stretch from Seattle to Mexico City!
Please add to the comments below and tell us your creative inspirations for walking campaigns at your schools.

Helpful Resources

If you aren’t already signed up, join our IWALK listserve by sending an email to caitlin@feetfirst.org.  You will receive summer-paced information and links to put you in good planning position for the fall.

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