Making It Count: Tracking Participation

 
Walk to School PNG for WebWALKTOBER has arrived and for many volunteers the kick-off day is just around the corner. While immediate concerns may be demanding your attention, we urge you not to overlook one final planning detail: ensuring that every participant gets counted.

 

It’s not as simple a task as it may seem. With bike-to-school days, you can simply count the number of bikes. For walk-to-school events, it’s easy to miss children walking, which could impact the perceived value of your event.

 

Having a full and accurate account of your one-day event will help you tell the story and celebrate with your school community.  If you are hosting a weekly event throughout WALKTOBER such as “Walking Wednesdays” or the equivalent, knowing the count for each week is crucial to mark growth.  If you are using punch cards all month long, a full data set is much more fun to work with than bits and pieces.  Regardless of the structure of your event, having an accurate participation count helps if you choose to seek funding or need to report back to current funders or to your school administrators about the effectiveness of WALKTOBER.

 

Incorporating these tips on event days:

 

Counting Basics

  • Have children walking sign-in as they enter the school, either on a simple sign-in sheet, or on a large piece of butcher paper so that everyone can see. You can also purchase an inexpensive hand tally counter.
  • Have children walking put their names on cut-outs that you supply on an activity table at the front door. Use simple circles, foot shapes, or leaves, which can later be assembled to make a visual impact.  The circles can be placed in a line to make a long centipede, for example, or the leaves placed on a tree visual on a hallway bulletin board representing the positive impact of walking.
  • Give a student in a walking school bus the job of tallying number of students walking and turning it in to the event coordinator. Make sure they count the students who arrive to school together, not just the ones who start with the group.

 

Under Counting

  • If your school has more than one main entrance, make sure there is some at each door to count students arriving by foot. Volunteers can stamp hands of the children walking and keep tally at the same time.
  • Give a small incentive for children walking, and make the instructions clear about how to earn it.
  • If you use punch-cards, collect the data regularly.  If you wait until the end of the month, many students will lose or forget their punch-card.  Set up tables weekly with a system to have students check in and write down their data, which you will keep.  Have extra cards on hand to replace lost ones.
  • If you have the cooperation of teachers, ask them to get a show of hands as they take attendance on event mornings.  You can make a quick form yourself or use the official forms from the National Center for Safe Routes to School.

Over Counting

  • If you have a welcome table, place it strategically to get the highest concentration of children who walk.  Do not place it in front of the bus load zone or driver drop-off area, for instance. Depending on the layout of your school, you might bring the table slightly away from the school to a walking path or sidewalk that is visible to, but avoids the driving areas completely.
  • If you offer incentives, do not make them so valuable that students will be tempted to bend the truth to get them.