Over the weekend, my seven year old granddaughter, Calyn, excitedly told me, “Grandma, I’m going to join the Walking School Bus when it starts April 1st.” “That’s wonderful,” I replied. It truly is wonderful to see two communities in Barton County, (both Great Bend and Hoisington) adopting this successful program and modeling it to other communities.
I first became aware of the term, “Walking School Bus” back in 2011 when I completed an on-line course through Cornell University addressing childhood obesity. At the time I thought it had possibilities, and sounded like something that happened naturally many years ago. I grew up on a farm so had to ride a school bus to and from school but all of my in-town friends walked to school. I’m pretty sure back in the 60’s there was no parent volunteer walking alongside the youngsters. Well times have changed and many families are not comfortable letting their children walk to school. The introduction of the Walking School Bus model provides a safe environment with friendly supervision.
The Cornell course pointed out that back in 1970, 66% of children walked to school and the child obesity rate was 5%. Thirty years later, in 2000, only 10% of children walked to school and the obesity rate had grown to 16%. There is an even higher incidence of obesity in 2015. If we could just get kids to be more active the end result could mean lower rates of overweight or obese youngsters; healthier kids overall.
So what are the benefits of adopting a “Walking School Bus”? There are many. Besides providing much needed exercise for everyone, walkers improved their test scores, and their attention at school resulted in noticeably fewer behavior problems.
As a community we need to embrace and support programs like these. I know several schools are still looking for volunteers to walk with children to school. If we can get obesity rates to start decreasing and if kids’ self-concept and behavior improve it will be a win-win for everyone.
Donna Krug is the Family and Consumer Science Agent with K-State Research and Extension. You may reach her at (620)793-1910 or email@example.com