Something’s Afoot: A Great Way to Start the School Year!

Hi Readers — I just love what is happening in Evanston, Illinois, and not just because I’m from that neck of the woods. Evanston, a suburb of Chicago, is encouraging all students, all ages, public, private, you name it to WALK to school for the first week of the academic year.

This is so smart because, even before parents get around to arranging car pools, or figuring out how they’re going to drive their kids to school each day, the kids get in the groove of walking. So instead of having to BREAK the daily drive habit,  the kids get off on the right foot!

Ok. Dumb, obvious joke that ins’t even that funny. Or at all funny. But still: Kudos to Evanston. Now let’s hope other school districts follow in its  (sorry, I can’t stop myself) footsteps! — Lenore

26 Responses

  1. Sounds great. I hope it works for them.

    School buses in my area have been cut except for disabled students. I could wish that it would lead to more students walking, but I expect it will just lead to more insanity in the parking lot. The cut doesn’t effect students who were closer than 3 miles to their schools anyhow, as they long have not offered buses for kids any closer than that. Why the close kids don’t walk already I just don’t understand.

    Not that the school helps. Even my second grader last year was expected to wait behind the gates until she could see me there to pick her up. I found out late in the school year that I could authorize her to walk home alone, but didn’t do it often because she felt lonely with no friends to walk with.

  2. I am amazed (and yet not) at the number of parents who pick up their kids at my kid’s school, particularly b/c it is such a weird set up (some days if you want to get a space in the first wave, you have to get there 20 or more minutes before school lets out). Some of these parents live about a mile away (some live only a few blocks away!), so why not walk? I know I would. Unfortunately, I am almost five miles away, but at least the days I get there early, I can run around the neighborhood after I park my cark.

  3. Anxious parents of younger kids are encouraged to walk and talk it out and see them to the door or beyond.

    All parents are challenged to get together so their kids are walking in groups.

    It’s not being set up as a one-time exception, but a week-long trial. The weather isn’t going to be the same every day, nor the parents’ schedules and extraneous circumstances.

    Challenging people to try something for a week, though?

    Excellent!

  4. Isn’t that kind of subversive though? How will corporate America stay afloat if everyone is even the least bit self-reliant?

  5. I did it! And will continue to as well. Sometimes it’s the only exercise I get in my busy day!

  6. Congrats for our suburbs, Lenore, that they have the common sense to do that! WAY TO GO CHICAGO!!!!!! (and suburbs as well of course).

    I’m a native from Glenview/Northbrook, IL –> more Chicago suburbs.

  7. Love this idea. We don’t have proper sidewalks going to my school where I teach but with enough people walking, signage and well marked road shoulders, we can and should raise awareness. Love also your whole get ‘em outdoors and leave some free play and exploration. I’m interested in keeping kids curious. See my blog entry – would love your ideas too. http:takeactionscience.wordpress.com

  8. This is a great idea. Along side with “Take your kids to the park and leave them there day”. As Bose said, “walk and talk”. Parents, especially the “not quite ready to let their kids go off on their own just yet”, should walk with their kids to school. Talk to them about traffic, looking both ways, maybe even what to do when stopped by strangers. Lead by example per say. Just until both the parent and the child(ren) are comfortable enough for the kids to do it on their own.

    Baby steps yes, but it’s a foot in the right direction. ;-)

  9. Two feet and a heart beat. It’s a time honored tradition. Let’s keep it going from one generation to the next. Who knows, it might actually start catching on again. Bicycle sales may even go up, and kids start losing weight, or stop gaining it. Maybe even become more aware of their surroundings, or start having walk pools with other kids.

  10. So I am on that major milestone…my child is starting kindergarten tomorrow. We planned to walk together. You have to cross 2 streets and walk thru a park. I think there are crossing guards, but I do want to make sure. I am walking, not because I read this article or because I am training him so he can eventually do it by himself (even though those are both good reasons), I do it because my hubby and I only have one car so that means someone has to walk or ride a bus :)

  11. I live in Northbrook, a suburb close to Evanston. We’re doing it too! We will have to see how many kids join in on the fun. For us, it’s not that big of a deal, as we live about a half block from school.

  12. “Isn’t that kind of subversive though? How will corporate America stay afloat if everyone is even the least bit self-reliant?”

    Oh, corporate America will do fine.

    “Your children are walking to school and they’re not wearing specialized walking-to-school shoes? Our walking-to-school shoes have a computer-designed tread pattern to keep them from slipping on a wet sidewalk, where they could get cuts, scrapes, a broken leg, or worse.”

    “Your kids walk to school. But when they arrive, are they all sweaty? Check out our new ‘walking outfits’ for your child. Guaranteed to keep your child smelling as fresh as they did when they left your comforting arms in the morning.”

    “Between 1963 and 2009, almost 500 children were hit by cars as they walked on the sidewalk. Don’t let this happen to your child–get them the new RadarVest 3000. Made of durable kevlar, this vest’s patented radar system will warn your child of any vehicle headed towards them. Don’t let your child become somebody’s hood ornament. Order the RadarVest 3000 today.”

  13. @Peter
    lol You cracked me up! Thanks.

  14. My childrens’ school has no school busses, and atour first PTA meeting one parent was being praised for setting up a private school bus, paid for by the parents.

    I mentioned that since everyone is close enought o walk, that’s what we should be focusing on, getting more children to walk, but everyone comes up with the “what if” arguements.

    I’m glad to see some schools know differently.

  15. I grew up in Wilmette which is right next to Evanston. When we were kids I didn’t know anyone whose parents drove them to school. We had rows and rows and rows of bike racks at our schools that were filled every day.

    My brother has five kids and lives in the same house I grew up in. My mom says that you can always tell my brother’s kids because they are the only ones who are walking to school by themselves. Sad.

    Kudos to Evanston. I would love for my town to do the same. Then I wouldn’t be known as the slacker mom who lets her kids walk to school by themselves!

  16. That is a great idea, my daughter goes to the local elementary for speech and I walk her there it starts right when school gets out and it is crazy with cars. We see a few walkers coming our way but not many that they set up a trail right through the neighborhood so it is a straight shot even though the neighborhood is full of cul de sac’s

    Also I was wondering what the statistics are for pedestrians being hit versus car accidents. I don’t get a lot of kidnapping talk but the parents are worried about the kids getting hit by cars.

  17. I’ve been a fan a long time…I have tried as much as possible to get my 18 and 16 year old ready for the world ala free-range parenting.

    I grew up in the suburbs of LA and found it constricting and dull so I raised my family in a “small town” within a big city; before they could take driver ed classes they had to learn to get everywhere they needed to by metro rail and busses. Guidelines are simple: First they rode with me to downtown LA, then short distances together, no going after dark (for now), and they always have to take a fully charged cell.

    Result: Neither is pressing for a license, they love that they can get anywhere and everywhere on their own. They know how to drive but are happy without a license.

    My husband and I aren’t running around in a panic because they don’t have a ride from school, etc So maybe I’ve created a monster but they have a healthy sense of autonomy and self efficacy. Those first times out on their own were nerve wracking for me and i texted and called them a lot but I’d rather have them learn and resolve things one their own while I am close by in case of a real emergency than when they move to college.

    I have a friend with a daughter who had a full-ride scholarship to a college in New York…she left after one semester because she felt trapped and unable to get anywhere without a car. It was then that I decided that I had to introduce my kids to public transit. My daughter is ready to start college in NYC next week with her bus numbers and subway stops memorized.

  18. By all means, get out & walk. Us: we live barely a mile from a school & I’m thinking when our kids get older they’ll be old enough to walk there or bike-ride there. I intend to not only let them do it, but empower & encourage them to do it.

  19. “I don’t get a lot of kidnapping talk but the parents are worried about the kids getting hit by cars.”

    That’s MY concern with walking to school. My son’s first school is about a mile to two miles away and houses 4k-First Grade. We live on a major, and very busy street in our area. He would have to walk several blocks, cross a VERY busy intersection that is right off the freeway, then walk two or three more blocks on a bridge going over the freeway WITHOUT sidewalks.

    I don’t think it’s going to happen. Ditto for when he gets to his second school. That school is three to five miles away. It’s too bad too because I’m all about walking.

    I am, however, heartened to see that in the more residential sections of our area many kids DO walk to school. True, many parents walk with the younger ones, but hey, at least they’re walking.

  20. Traffic is what worries me, too. My son starts high school next week. He’s only just started riding his bike regularly, he’s only done one practice run to the high school, and he’s not the most observant guy at the best of times. But I’ll probably give him the choice of riding by himself or getting a ride from me on the first day–just because I’m that kind of sentimental mom.

  21. For those who are interested in promoting the idea of kids walking to school, but worry abbout parents’ irrational and sometimes rational fears, there are projects out there could be replicated in different geographical contexts.
    The projects originated in Denmark and have been implemented in several European countries:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walking_bus

    Project outline of a similar project in Italy:

    http://www.cipra.org/alpknowhow/bestpractice/Piedibus

    While this isn’t free-range parenting, it is a step in the right direction, and once parents get out of the car, they’ll learn to be less irrational about “what might be out there”.

  22. @DMT…yes, I agree. *I* have been hit by a car right in front of the school. It is a very dangerous and unimproved area in front of my kids school and there have been several accidents there. They are reworking that…but apparently the construction will take 2 years??!

    They are tearing down a bunch of houses and putting in a new street to the current one can be dedicated to picking up & dropping off! It is crazy. I think we would all be happy if they just put in sidewalks!

    The Petticoat Polymath -or- Jane-of-all-trades:
    Musings on Disability, Health, Parenting, Politics, and all sorts of other stuff!

  23. I live in Berkeley, CA where a complicated school lottery system ensures that the same ratios of children from each of three economic levels are at every school in the district. This way, no one school will have all the affluent students or all the most impoverished students. In principle, a good idea. Unfortunately, as a result, there are no “neighborhood schools”. Kids who live on the same block go to different schools, so we cannot have the big kids walk with our little kids. My son was assigned a school just over one mile away from me (too far for my Kindergartner to walk) instead of the one across the street. We are dying to get off the waitlist for the one across the street, of course. At the info night, the admissions director for the district said with laughter that some parents plea to get re-assigned to their closest school because they want to reduce their carbon footprint. Well, yeah! The pros and cons of this system are fascinating.

  24. That’s kind of what I wonder. So, no one can abduct your child because you’ve ushered them ever so carefully to the door, but let’s be frank here. These mothers are so focused on THEIR children and THEIR safety that they’re not at all concerned about the safety of anyone else, and they drive like Manhattan cab drivers to ensure that THEIR children are there on time, are picked up, and whisked away to their play dates. To hell with any children, pedestrians, cyclists, or other motorists on the highway. And yes, I’ve kissed pavement on account of one of these “protective” mothers. Sure mom…. you driving like an insane person is REALLY decreasing risk there.

  25. When I taught, we had situations where crazy mothers hit kids with their cars. Not many, a couple over many years, but it happens. These parents have no concern for other children other than their own. In fact, they probably think it child abuse road kill kid wasn’t in a car.

    When I taught, I often walked to school or rode my bike. I only lived a few miles away. I had fellow teachers horrified and saying I, an adult, was not safe in this suburban area on my own.

    What are the possibilities of crossing guards in such areas?

  26. For those who are interested in promoting the idea of kids walking to school, but worry about parents’ irrational and sometimes rational fears, there are projects out there could be replicated in different geographical contexts.
    In Europe, since 1976, when they started in Denmark, a lot of examples of “the walking bus” (see Wikipedia pages for Piedibus or Walking bus) have been used as a way to curb parents’ fears while still allowing kids to walk to school.
    Basically it’s organized walking, where 2 parents (taking turns) take charge of all the kids and help in risky traffic situations. (Please do also have a look at a project outline from cipra.org about the piedibus – can’t post it because then my comment ends up in the spam queue).

    While this isn’t free-range parenting, it is a step in the right direction, and once parents get out of the car, they’ll learn to be less irrational about “what might be out there”.

    (posted thisseveral days ago, but the links in my comment made it fly into the spam- folder)

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