“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!
The Maine Walking School Bus (WSB) Program – a partnership of the Maine Center for Disease Control, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine and the Maine Department of Transportation – is excited to announce that Vine Street (Bangor), Abraham Lincoln (Bangor), Farwell (Lewiston) and Riverton (Portland) elementary schools have been selected to receive grants for the coming school years beginning in the spring of 2017! Congratulations!!
Vine Street, Abraham Lincoln, Farwell and Riverton will join five other schools across the state of Maine that have worked with the statewide program to launch daily walking school buses: Portland’s East End Community School, Norway’s Guy E. Rowe School, Ellsworth’s Elementary-Middle School, Waterville’s Albert S. Hall School, and Bangor’s Downeast School.
The East End Community School in Portland was selected as the pilot location for the Maine Walking School Bus Program in the Fall of 2014. Being in its final months of grant funding, East End is showing that its Walking School Bus program is going strong.
The East End Community School’s Walking School Bus celebrated Winter Walk to School Day back in February with schools in Canada and other Northern Tier States! Portland minor league sports mascots Crusher and Slugger joined the students on their walk to school, while the Cat in the Hat accompanied walkers to commemorate Dr. Suess’ birthday on Read Across America Day.
East End Walking School Bus Coordinator Elise Moody-Roberts is constantly out in the community spreading the word about the Walking School Bus. Elise was recently invited to speak at Portland Trail’s Annual Meeting, a TED-style forum of ideas, with snappy, dynamic presentations from speakers engaged in work and play related to Portland Trail’s mission. Elise did an amazing job celebrating the program’s success as she only had 15 slides–with 15 seconds per slide!
East End Community School is currently exploring a variety of avenues to sustain the Walking School Bus program for next fall. The administration, students, and community all agree that the Walking School Bus program is an asset and a staple within the school as well as Portland’s community.
For additional questions about the East End Community School’s Walking School Bus Program, please contact Elise Moody-Roberts, Walking School Bus Coordinator via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: (207) 671-9207 or visit the Portland page on the Maine Walking School Bus website.
The Maine Walking School Bus (WSB) Program is very pleased to announce that the Downeast School in Bangor and the Albert S. Hall School in Waterville are the two latest recipients of grants to start daily walking school bus programs in their communities. The 2-year grant will provide a stipend for a WSB program coordinator who will be based in each school and receive ongoing technical assistance from WSB Program staff.
Both schools scored very highly on their WSB Program applications submitted this past fall – and during their site visit meetings and route review walks in December. The two communities have participated in Safe Routes to School activities in the past – for example, holding walk to school events and conducting bicycle and pedestrian safety education. These help foster a successful Walking School Bus Program.
School principal, Al Mooers, said, “The Downeast School is excited to be able to offer our students a safe, fun and organized way to walk to school and community members are eager to be a part of this program. Together we can organize and implement a Walking School Bus program which will benefit students, parents, the community and the school”
The schools recently held their WSB program community workshops and we were very impressed by the extent of community support and enthusiasm for the program shown by participants.
Both WSB programs are due to launch in the spring. They join the three schools currently running WSB programs as part of the state-wide program: Portland’s East End Community School, Norway’s Guy E Rowe Elementary School, and the Ellsworth Elementary Middle School.
The Maine Walking School Bus Program is funded by a grant from the Maine Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and is administered by the Bicycle Coalition of Maine and the Maine Safe Routes to School Program. The program also partners with the Maine Department of Transportation. Interested communities will have another chance to apply to the program in Fall 2016. For more information please sign up for our e-mail newsletter in the right sidebar.
Thanks to financial support from the Maine Center for Disease Control and the Maine Department of Transportation and the able assistance of filmmaker Terrence T. Wolfe, the Maine Walking School Bus Program now has four informational program videos!
The videos consist of three short (1 minute) video segments featuring interviews and shots of existing Walking School Buses for three audiences:
(1) prospective community applicants:
(2) potential community volunteers for each local program:
(3) local students and families who are prospective participants:
A longer (2.5 minute) compilation video presents all of the clips together in a single informative video:
Feel free to utilize these videos to share more about the program, start your own Walking School Buses using our Online Toolkit, and encourage your local school(s) to apply!
This fall, through another competitive application process, the Maine WSB Program Team will be selecting up to 3 new schools with which to work to launch Walking School Bus programs in the spring of 2016.
Application deadline is November 13, 2015. See Application and How to Apply here.
With the launch of the new school year comes the relaunch of the Walking School Bus! Students and volunteers are making their way to school each day at Ellsworth Elementary-Middle School, Guy E. Rowe Elementary in Norway, and East End Community School in Portland.
We’ve been excited by growing awareness of these Walking School Bus programs:
- Norway was off and running as soon as school started – see this great piece with photos from the Lewiston Sun Journal
- Ellsworth celebrate its relaunch with another nice article and photos in the Ellsworth American
- And for a great description of Portland and other local WSB program activities, see this Maine Sunday Telegram article. The author, Shoshana Hoose, was the former communications director for the Bicycle Coalition of Maine and also reported on local Safe Routes to School efforts as the communications director for the Portland Public Schools.
Hats off to these programs and their 2015-2016 school year efforts!
They look forward to being joined by other schools around the state via informal family-led Walking School Buses and also up to three new schools to be chosen for funding this fall by the Maine Walking School Bus Program!
Students in Ellsworth and Norway have another way to get to school this spring. They are using the Walking School Bus, a program in which groups of local elementary school students join trained adult volunteers to walk as a group along particular routes to school. It’s a healthy, cost effective addition to a school transportation system that kids and their adult “bus drivers” also find fun. The program is supported by a partnership between the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, the Maine Safe Routes to School Program and the Maine Department of Transportation.
Guy E. Rowe Elementary School in Norway and Ellsworth Elementary-Middle School are the two most recent recipients of grants from the Maine Walking School Bus Program to start daily walking school bus programs in their communities – see a recent Bangor Daily News article on the programs here. The 2-year grant provides resources to get the Walking School Bus (WSB) started in the communities so the program will continue after the grant is complete.
“Norway and Ellsworth have done a lot of related work in the past – walk and bike to school days, making sure students are taught bicycle and pedestrian safety, coming to previous Walking School Bus trainings we’ve held and working on improvements to sidewalks, crossings and other infrastructure in their communities. All of these help foster a successful Walking School Bus Program,” reported Darcy Whittemore, the Bicycle Coalition’s Central and Western Maine Safe Routes to School Coordinator.
In partnership with Coalition staff, the schools held WSB community workshops in February and the local support and enthusiasm for the program was impressive. Local partners for the program include school administrators, police, parent-teacher organizations, hospitals, school transportation directors, the YMCA, Rotary Clubs and other civic groups, a bank, and the local press. The WSB coordinators have been working hard since February to recruit and train volunteers and enlist students and families in the effort. Both communities launched their programs in late April.
David Norwood, the Physical Education teacher and WSB Coordinator in Ellsworth, shared, “We’re taking our time to build a strong local program and plan to grow the number of students and routes as we go. The Ellsworth community is really excited about this initiative and wants to see it succeed.” Both schools welcome community members to sign up online at walkingschoolbus.me/Ellsworth or walkingschoolbus.me/Norway to walk with students one morning a week. Volunteers are background-checked, then trained and placed with at least one other volunteer on a route.
“We had eight students registered before the first day,” reported Rebecca Powell, the Norway WSB Coordinator. “I thought, okay, we’ll start with that. But then as we walked the first morning, more and more students showed up on the route with their registration forms ready to walk with us. We ended up with 22 students – it was amazing!”
Portland’s East End Community School piloted a WSB program starting in 2013 and is now funded through the statewide Walking School Bus Program as well; it continues to be an excellent example of success. Interested communities will have another chance to apply to the program in fall 2015 (sign up to receive notice in the right-hand sidebar of this site!)
Last Friday, the East End Community School’s Walking School Bus Program teamed up with the Portland Children’s Film Festival for a showing of one of their films, On the Way to School – which tracks four groups of children in far-flung locations as they each set off on impossibly long, arduous and sometimes life threatening journeys to attend class in distant schoolhouses.
The Walking School Bus (WSB) students were responsible for introducing On the Way to School and started by sharing a short volunteer-created film of their own on-the-way-to school experience via the Walking School Bus. What a great piece that really captures the program!
To get to the event, volunteers walked with the WSB students from school to the library downtown. In addition to introducing the films, WSB students thanked program funders (Maine Center for Disease Control, Bicycle Coalition of Maine, Maine Department of Transportation) and others (volunteers who share the walk with the students each day, the filmmaker (Terrence Wolfe) etc.) publicly. A number of volunteer Walk Leaders were in the audience and the WSB students had them stand for applause, then invited participating students and Terry the filmmaker to stand as well.
The Portland Children’s Film Festival also showed the Walking School Bus video at the Young Filmmaker’s Contest Red Carpet event on Thursday night and then at the Nickelodeon Cinema on Sunday – even though it wasn’t an official entry because it was not specifically student-led/driven. So it was a wonderful surprise to see it up on the big screens as well!