Longfellow Elementary School in Iowa City piloted a walking school bus program each Wednesday morning throughout the fall with the hopes to encourage more kids to walk to school with new and existing friends in their neighborhood.
A Walking School Bus (WSB) is a group of children walking to school together under the supervision of trained adult volunteers. WSBs help children increase daily physical activity, have fun with classmates, learn lifelong safety techniques, and help prepare them to be future safer drivers who watch out for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Longfellow’s walking school bus began this fall with a group of about 11 students and several adult leaders who walked a roughly 20-minute route to the school. The walking school bus is open to students in all grades, encourages new and existing students to step outside their comfort zones by making new friends while simultaneously encouraging physical activity. He said research also shows walking and exercise can positively impact students’ mental activity and their ability to focus in class.
Parents and leaders involved in the walking school bus program at Longfellow Elementary want to expand the initiative next spring. Julie Dancer, a parent volunteer, said organizers are seeking additional volunteers to lead the walking school bus as “drivers” next spring. She said volunteers receive training on safety, tracking participants and monitoring students’ behavior. Longfellow principal Chris Pisarik said he’d like to see the program expand to include more people and routes, and that organizers also might start offering the walking school bus after school as well as in the morning.
Although the program will be hibernating for the winter, Longfellow is excited to bring it back this spring. If you are interested in learning more about the Longfellow Walking School please contact Longfellow WSB Parent Coordinator Julie Dancer at firstname.lastname@example.org
**Special thanks to Johnson County Public Health for submitting this success story
**Pictures provided courtesy of Iowa City Community School District