“The WSB is a fantastic program . . . when I first heard of it I figured “What the heck, it’s only a half hour or so of my day.” I thought it was some crazy sounding idea and the appeal to the children would soon decrease as soon as the novelty wore off . . . it has in fact, been just the opposite as it seems each semester — regardless of the weather — we have gained in popularity.”
This quote from a volunteer walk leader is one of many that we received from a recent survey that we sent out to the 6 walking school bus programs (WSB) that we work with in Bangor, Portland, Norway and Lewiston. We wanted to find out what some of the WSB coordinators, volunteer walk leaders and parents of kids who participate thought and felt about the program. Here are a few examples of the Terrific Testimonials we received:
“I joined in November of 2016 when I realized I had too much free time on my hands. I work a typical 9-5 in an office setting and I’ve noticed that my most productive days in the office are the days I do WSB. That has made me such a believer, if that walk starts me off on the right foot and gets me engaged in my work, I can only believe that it does the same for the kids at school…I imagine along the walk they are paying attention to everything around them- learning how to navigate busy intersections, noticing that some cars don’t always slow down immediately, even if there is a person in an orange vest, waving a flag in the middle of the road. I enjoy being able to observe their growth, their development of safe behaviors along the walk and hearing about their observations along the way.”
“There are so many good things to list . . . the idea of encouraging children to do some physical activity, allowing the children to burn off some energy before the start of school, allowing the children to see community members in a different light . . . but the best part has been interacting with the children and being able to integrate important life lessons whether it be an impromptu discussion about bullying, fire safety, pedestrian safety, role of emergency providers, etc.”
“I have watched children’s entire mindset about the day shift from listless, teary, or angry to flat out enthusiasm in the space of a half-mile walk with peers of multiple ages and backgrounds–and I have never seen the children’s mindset do the reverse. Did I mention the mix of ages and backgrounds, which leads to all sorts of unplanned lessons and growth in racial and class diversity, socio-emotional learning, and community-building. And by community-building, I mean the whole community–not just the participating kids. My family and I have formed relationships of varying degrees with other parents and volunteer walkers, with the children and their families, and with other community members who see us walk each day and want to know more, or contribute in some other way.”
“I see a lot of social benefits. I think that having the mix of grades k-3 in the program gives the older students an opportunity to support younger students who may be more shy when they first join the walking school bus. I also love the community impact. Our WSB route passes the city bus route and the city bus driver always waves to the kids and says hi. I think fostering that sense of community in young children can have long-term benefits.”
“Given all the positives (both easy and hard to measure) for kids, adults, school, environment, and community at large, I remain a bit puzzled that WSB is not an embedded and essential part of every school and every student’s experience. I stand ready to help make that happen in any way I can.”
These are all outstanding reasons to promote and support Walking School Bus programs!