Kyrene de la Colina Elementary School held its first organized walk to school on Tuesday as part of International Walk to School Month.
To celebrate during the month of October, the city of Phoenix organized walks at 45 elementary schools across the city that will involve more than 33,000 students and take place over a period of seven weeks, an official said.
The goals of the international program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are to increase physical activity among children, improve air quality and advance road safety, all by promoting students to walk or ride their bikes to school, according to the Web site.
With a school of more than 600 students, Principal Kelvin Inouye was pleased with the approximate turnout of 260 students, teachers and parents who joined him in walking from Corpus Christi Church to the school’s playground.
“We encourage them to walk, ride their bicycles and take advantage of the beautiful Arizona weather,” Inouye said.
One of the main focuses of the walk was to promote alternative methods to riding in a car or school bus to teach the importance of reducing air pollution, Inouye said, later adding that the school does include ways to conserve and properly use natural resources in the science curriculum.
“It’s about going green and this is one way to do it.”
Phoenix started planning walk to school events around 10 years ago. In its first year, the program involved two schools, which has now grown to 45 and will include 75 throughout the city next year, city of Phoenix School Safety Coordinator Donald Cross said.
Cross, who planned the walks throughout Phoenix, said it’s important for kids to learn these principles at a young age so they can develop life-long habits.
“If you train them while they’re young and teach them to do the right things then, hopefully, they’ll carry that on with them when they’re older,” said Cross, who added that out of his three kids, who range from 10 to 17, his youngest is the most aware of doing his part to help the environment.
“My youngest is really into it,” he said. “As I was learning more and doing more, he was getting into it as well.”
Cross also organized a pre-walk training assembly two weeks prior to the event itself in order to teach students the rules of the road and appropriate safety precautions, with the help of a police officer.
One of the parents who participated in the walk, Tanya Estrada, of Ahwatukee Foothills, said the event was a great bonding experience between her and her 5-year-old son, Matthew.
“We normally do walk to school, but we sort of stopped due to the weather,” she said. “You forget how fun it can be.”
Estrada said that families should avoid driving whenever they can to show their children that there are other forms of transportation that are better for the environment.
“Your feet or your bike are important to use when you can,” she said. “It’s important for kids to know that.”
Matthew, who is in Ms. Denton’s first-grade class, has been learning about transportation, but Estrada said that she thinks events like this are important and her son will realize that walking is a great form of transportation after experiencing it hands-on with many of his classmates.
“After today I think he’ll know that walking is transportation,” Estrada said.
Stephanie Snyder is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a sophomore at ASU.