Holt, MI – Wednesday is International Walk to School Day. At Horizon Elementary in Holt, many of the students already walk to school in what they call "Walking School Buses." Principal David Hornak says it's part of a healthy environment at the school that encourages exercise and nutritious food.
WKAR's Gretchen Millich spoke with Hornak about how the school will celebrate International Walk to School Day.
DAVID HORNAK: I've invited our student body, as well as local legislators and our central office administrators, to join us for a light breakfast at my house, which is about a mile away, and then we're going to walk to school as a group on International Walk to School Day.
We're really, really excited. When we arrive here at school, we're going to be participating in something called the Pedestrian Safety Dance, and the Ped Safety Dance is something we've been working on for the last three to four weeks. It's a choreographed dance in partnership with the Michigan Fitness Foundation. We're ready to dance for Walk to School Day.
GRETCHEN MILLICH: Recently, Governor Snyder announced his intention to make Michigan a healthier place, and he especially wanted to focus on children and the obesity epidemic among children. At Horizon, you're already well ahead of that game.
HORNAK: We certainly support what Governor Snyder is saying in terms of we need to be impacting lifestyles. I believe that at Horizon, within the last five years, we've been working and pointed in that direction. So, when Governor Snyder's encouraging more kids to walk and bike to school through the national and state level Safe Routes program, and more specifically the Walking School Bus, that really fits into we're doing here at Horizon.
Five years ago, we started looking at our data, and we completed the Healthy School Action Tool. That told us we needed to have less sweet treats in the building and we needed to increase our fitness levels. In that same year, we started a 5K run-walk event. We are also doing something this year called Tone-Up Tuesday where the faculty and staff, as well as the students, come to school in fitness clothes to exercise, in addition to the regular kinetics classes throughout the week.
MILLICH: Tell me about Safe Routes to School and the Walking School Bus. How does that work?
HORNAK: We partnered with the Ingham County Health Department and the state level Safe Routes to School office two years ago. We collected several data points and determined that only 28 children were walking to school or biking to school of about a walking or biking population of about 200. So, we were gravely concerned that we had too many kids either riding the bus or getting dropped off before school.
With the partnership with the Safe Routes to School, as well as the Michigan Fitness Foundation, we have started what we call the Walking School Bus. We have kids who are gathering at a variety of locations around our neighborhoods, 13 different Walking School Bus locations in fact. The kids are escorted to school with an adult. Every five days that they walk to school, they earn what is called a Two-inch Toe Token. That's very, very motivating. Every 20 days that they walk to school, they go into a drawing for a free bike at the end of the year.
You know, the underlying benefits of the Walking School Bus are we have less traffic around our schools, which helps with emissions. We've been able to reduce one full bus route. So, last year we had three buses, this year we have two.
We're also always actively looking for ways to partner with our community, and this is a really nice way for parents to feel involved, and we really feel proud of our parents who have been involved and get excited every day when they come to volunteer.
Safe Routes to School website