At least two local schools are joining others around the world in an effort to promote physical activity and combat childhood obesity by celebrating International Walk to School activities throughout the month of October.
L.C. Kerr and Butler Avenue schools in Clinton are each participating in the international campaign, which aim to raise awareness of the need to create safer routes for walking and bicycling while emphasizing the importance of issues such as physical activity among children, pedestrian safety, traffic congestion and concern for the environment.
The events also help to build connections between families, schools and the general community. Approximately 1,096 students from the participating schools will be walking to school or participating in scheduled physical activity events along with parents, teachers, community leaders and Sampson County Partners for Healthy Carolinians.
In partnership with representatives from both local schools, Healthy Carolinians has helped in organizing “Walk to School” as part of the group’s plan to help decrease obesity among school-age youth.
L.C. Kerr School students will celebrate by walking weekly during physical education (P.E.) class.
“We walk every day when we come into the gym,” said Cindy Flowers, who is leading coordination of Walk to School activities at L.C. Kerr. “We walk every day and I encourage the children every day that, instead of getting into the car and using gas to come somewhere, maybe they can go with family and walk to where they need to go if they are close enough.”
Butler Avenue will host numerous events, notably Walking Wednesdays, throughout October.
Each Wednesday, morning announcements will include information about walking, physical activity and health. Likewise, each class will be encouraged to walk a minimum of 15 minutes on the playground or campus track. Classes will record their minutes walked, which will be charted daily or converted to miles and mapped across the county or state. The class with the most minutes logged at the end of the month will be recognized by leading the walk around the block.
This past week, classes made posters to encourage walking. At Kerr, Flowers said, the students received a template of a shoe that they could color in how they wished. After they did their walking, they could then put the number of laps on the shoe and display it so “everybody could see how healthy we are,” Flowers said.
The kids will be able to take the picture home to show their parents when the month is finished and share how many laps they did to celebrate the “Walk to School” campaign. As Kerr continues its everyday physical activities, a slate of events will also be taking place at Butler Avenue School.
On Oct. 17, Butler Avenue will host Walk to School Day. Students that live within walking distance are being encouraged to walk to school on that day. Letters are being sent home to parents to obtain permission and make them aware of the event.
Families will be encouraged to “Walk at Home” for at least 15 minutes on Oct. 24. Families will need to complete the walking log and return to school with their walking times, with that information added to the minutes walked for the initial map showing progress across the county and state.
Butler Avenue will conclude their month-long celebration on Oct. 31 by walking around the block during school hours, during which time students will be encouraged to wear costumes or dress as their favorite book character as part of the Halloween.
In 2011, International Walk to School Day was celebrated at more than 4,000 events at schools across the United States, along with children and adults in 40 countries around the world.
Walk to School Day was established in the United States in 1997 by the Partnership for a Walkable America. Canada and Great Britain already had walk to school programs in place. In 2000, the three countries joined together to create International Walk to School Day. In May 2006, the National Center for Safe Routes to School was established to assist communities in enabling and encouraging children to safely walk and bike to school. The center now serves as the national coordinating agency for Walk to School activities in the United States.
Flowers said many of the children at Kerr are already urged to stay active, but the international campaign allows local school officials to shed further light on the importance of physical activity and halting obesity and health problems before they start.
“We pretty much do this type of thing all the time,” said Flowers. “For this (campaign), they wanted us to bump it up a notch.”
For additional information, contact the Sampson County Health Department at 910-592-1131. To assist with other Healthy Carolinians events, visit www.scpfhc.org, or attend the next meeting at 2 p.m. Nov. 27 at the Center for Health and Wellness.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.