Some 35 percent of public school students walk or bike to school on any given day, according to current Safe Routes to School stats, but many more are taking to the streets all week in honor of Earth Day — in fact, thousands more.
Consider that there are approximately 55.5 million K-12 school students nationwide (per 2010 NCES and U.S. Census Bureau figures). That means about 19 million kids walk or bike to school on a typical day. While the National Center for Safe Routes to School coordinates the "Walk to School Day" in October each year, it is up to individual school districts to plan their Earth Day walks. Districts from coast to coast are sending home flyers and posting safety information on their websites, including the SRTS Guide, to ensure the success of this effort.
One California school district is taking a unique approach and incorporating a neighborhood cleanup into its walk. Approximately 20,000 San Mateo County students walked to school Friday alongside family members, teachers, community leaders and enthusiasts. Walking groups scooped up litter on their trek to school thanks to a generous donation of gloves and trash bags from the San Mateo Countywide Water Pollution Prevention Program.
As part of the "Be Seen Keepin' it Clean" campaign, these students noted their mode of travel on a chart and recorded how much litter they collected, with all participants earning incentive rewards provided by SRTS of San Mateo County, San Mateo Countywide Water Pollution Prevention Program, and the county's RecycleWorks Program.
Roy Cloud Elementary in Redwood City, Calif., also promoted walking or biking to school on Friday in recognition of Earth Day. Officials said this event is a wonderful way to try out a new routine. The event flyer states that walking your children to school is safer than driving them in the family vehicle, according to the Centers for Disease Control and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Students at the Bradfield Elementary School in Dallas, Texas went green on Monday. Sponsored by the Highland Park Police Department, the Bradfield "Get Fit and Get Green" event provided police officers and YMCA staff to accompany students at certain locations who are walking or biking to school.
At the Denver Green School in Colorado, Earth Week is its signature event and includes an "Up-cycle" costume parade, community auction, neighborhood cleanup, garden planting, fun classroom activities and and, of course, a walking event on the actual holiday.
Back East, several districts in New Jersey and New York joined the walking movement as well. Oradell (N.J.) Public Schools asked walkers and bicyclists to wear the Earth's colors, blue or green, and to join staff at school entrances for a five-minute stretch. Hazel Avenue Elementary School in West Orange, N.J. had the same idea as San Mateo County but held their community cleanup after school at 3:30, inviting parents to come along. The school supplied gloves to everyone eager to clean up their school grounds and community.
Bronxville, N.Y., was the first in the nation to start the Earth Day "Walk to School" event, back in 2009. It is a one-square-mile village located in Eastchester 14 miles from Midtown Manhattan, with plenty of greenery and dozens of residences dating to the late 1800s. Many residents say it hasn't changed much in the past 100 years. But Karin Drakenberg, who originally hailed from Sweden, changed the way many students there celebrate Earth Day when she inspired this city-wide — and eventually nationwide — movement to walk to school, Forbes reported.
Frustrated by how many people in the small village drove to school, Karin said, "I've always walk my two boys to school. I am passionate about this walk to school. And I just want to inspire others to join on in."