East End Update!

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.

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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!

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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: eecs@walkingschoolbus.me or phone: (207) 671-9207 or visit the Portland page on the Maine Walking School Bus website.

 

 

 

 

Schools in Waterville & Bangor Join the Maine Walking School Bus Program

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Participants in Albert S. Hall School’s BIG Walk to School Day in 2013

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”

WSB Program Community Meeting at the Albert S. Hall School in January 2016

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.

New Maine Walking School Bus Videos Released!

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:

Maine Walking School Bus – What Schools are Saying from Bicycle Coalition of Maine on Vimeo.

(2) potential community volunteers for each local program:

What Volunteers are Saying from Bicycle Coalition of Maine on Vimeo.

(3) local students and families who are prospective participants:

What Students are Saying from Bicycle Coalition of Maine on Vimeo.

A longer (2.5 minute) compilation video presents all of the clips together in a single informative video:

Maine Walking School Bus – The Walking School Bus Program from Bicycle Coalition of Maine on Vimeo.

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!

Fall 2015: Walking School Buses Underway & Great Press from Ellsworth, Norway, & Portland!

A daily Walking School Bus is underway in Norway.

A daily Walking School Bus is underway in Norway.

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:

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!

Daily Walking School Buses Underway in Ellsworth and Norway (and Portland)!

Norway WSB Launch 1Students 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.

Community Workshop in Ellsworth - led by the Walking School Bus Program.

Community Workshop in Ellsworth – led by the Walking School Bus Program.

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.

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One of the early days of the Norway Walking School Bus this spring.

“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!)

The Walking School Bus Meets the Portland Children's Film Festival

WSB Film ShotLast 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.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe 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.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESOn their walk with volunteers back home to the East End, students shared their excitement about their experience.

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!

Ellsworth & Norway: Two New Communities Join Maine's Walking School Bus Program!

School & local leaders from Norway meet with WSB Program as part of the grant application process.

School & local leaders from Norway meet with WSB Program as part of grant application process.

The Maine Walking School Bus (WSB) Program is very pleased to announce that Guy E. Rowe Elementary School in Norway and Ellsworth Elementary-Middle School 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.

WSB Program staff and community leaders walk potential routes in Norway as part of vetting their application.

WSB Program & community leaders walk potential routes in Norway.

Both schools scored very highly for 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 events, conducting bicycle and pedestrian safety education, attending previous Walking School Bus trainings, and working on infrastructure improvements in their communities.  All of these help foster a successful Walking School Bus Program.

Community Workshop in Ellsworth - led by the Walking School Bus Program.

Community Workshop in Ellsworth – led by the Walking School Bus Program.

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. 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.

Ellsworth and Norway have both celebrated walking and biking to school for several years. This photo from Ellsworth.

Ellsworth and Norway have both celebrated walking and biking to school for several years. This photo from Ellsworth.

The Maine Walking School Bus Program is funded by a grant from the federal 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 2015.  For more information please sign up for our e-mail newsletter in the right sidebar.

 

Collaborating with AAA Safety Patrol to Help Lead the Walking School Bus

Written by Sarah Cushman, Southern Maine Planner (consultant) for the Maine Safe Routes to School Program

We had a great meeting today with AAA of Northern New England and their National Office to discuss a possible pilot collaboration between the long-standing and classic AAA School Safety Patrol and our efforts to develop a student walk leader program within our Maine Walking School Bus Program.  With upper elementary students showing and seeking leadership roles within the Walking School Bus, and with the on-going need for additional volunteer walk leader help as our daily Walking School Bus routes grow, this could feed two birds with one seed.

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L-R: Dan Goodman, AAA NNE; Maddy Ray, East End Community School Walking School Bus Coordinator; Sarah Cushman, Southern Maine Planner (consultant) for the Safe Routes to School Program. Maddy & Sarah pictured with AAA’s School Safety Patrol sashes and badges that are worn by student patrolers.

I and Maddy Ray, the East End Community School Walking School Bus Coordinator here in Portland, met with AAA of Northern New England’s Pat Moody, Manager of Public Affairs, and Dan Goodman, their new Traffic Safety Specialist (Note: this is the same great Dan Goodman formerly of Go Maine and the Regional Transportation Program (RTP).)  The meeting also included Jennifer Huebner Davidson, the Manager of Traffic Safety Advocacy at the AAA National Office (via phone).

We led folks through the ins and outs of our daily school-run Walking School Bus program here in Portland and also what is unfolding across the state. Then Jennifer shared her knowledge and perspective from working with the thousands of schools across the country with active AAA School Safety Patrol programs (currently there are 635,000 student Patrolers!) for how we could utilize the existing AAA program structure to implement a hybrid student walk leader program for our local students.

Within our local program we carry the desire both to do authentic youth engagement and to meet our primary goal to improve safety. So we’ve been living with the question of how to clearly define the role of our future student walk leaders.  I.e., what would student leaders be permitted to do and not permitted to do – to keep kids safe on the walk to school?  We’ve been seeking input both from the students, adult program management, and consulting with other folks involved with Safe Routes to School around the country – but it was a real boon to hear Jennifer’s broad insight and clear-cut answers.  In turn, she was excited about this potential pilot hybridization and offered ongoing guidance as we proceed to explore it.  Pat and Dan have been very supportive as well – having brought Jennifer in as a resource after we approached them and also offering local AAA technical assistance, diverse connections, and School Safety Patrol materials as we proceed.

We’ve got work to do to develop the program and implement it (we’re hoping to pilot it in Spring 2015) but we’ve found some more friends to walk with us along the way.  It’s an exciting time!

Tips for Parent-Led Walking School Buses from Ocean Avenue Elementary in Portland

Start Your Own Neighborhood Walking School Bus!

Photo from WSB videoMeet the Ocean Avenue Elementary School Neighborhood Walking School Bus!  Walking every day throughout the year, families in one of this Portland school’s neighborhoods have organized a daily Walking School Bus that walks up to 8 children to the Ocean Avenue Elementary School, approximately ½ mile away.  Entering its fourth year, this Walking School Bus has an almost perfect record despite rain, wind and snow.  Taking less than an hour for parents to organize at the start of the school year, this bus has been a huge time-saver for families – and the kids love walking together (click on image at right to see local news video)!

The Ocean Avenue Neighborhood’s Tips for Quick and Easy Walking School Bus Organization

  1. Bus Drivers/Walk Leaders: Five families living in the same neighborhood area commit to “driving the bus” (acting as adult Walk Leaders) one day a week throughout the year.  Other families are “floaters” or substitutes as needed.  Parents choose the day that works best for their schedule.  If you don’t have 5 families able to participate, parent Walk Leaders can take on more than one day a week.   If your group of walkers is larger than 8, you will want to double-up and have two parent Walk Leaders each morning to ensure the safety of the larger sized group.
  1. The Route: Determine the safest route to school.  Assess sidewalk and crossing locations, crossing guards, etc., to come up with the safest route.  This route should not change no matter who is walking with the Walking School Bus.
  1. Bus Stops:Define a starting Walking School Bus stop and departure time, as well as any other bus stops and times based on the families participating.  The Walk Leader should arrive at the starting bus stop 5 minutes before the walking bus is scheduled to depart.  Just like a regular school bus, the children at the stop are officially “on the bus”.  The Walk Leader heads the group and makes any other stops (in the case of the Ocean Avenue Elementary neighborhood, there are three stops) to pick up waiting children along the designated route.  Walk Leaders swap days as needed but are responsible for getting their own substitutes.
  1. Planning Tip: Take a test walk before the first day of school with all the children and parent Walk Leaders.  Make sure everyone is on the same page with the route, bus stop locations and schedule.
    Safety Information: During the Test Walk hand out Be A Safe Walker safety sheets to parents and kids – and review safe walking and bus rules and expectations on the first walk.  For example, the Ocean Avenue Neighborhood Bus has the following rules: “walk as a group, wait at every street crossing and cross together, wait one giant step back from the curb, and no running ahead”.
  1. Communications: Communicate the Walk Leaders’ schedule, bus stop times, rules and expectations via an organizing email with all families before the start of school.  It is important for Walk Leaders to be consistent with the schedule, route and rules so children have the same expectations and experience no matter who is the Walk Leader.  (Also share cell phone numbers!  Mornings are hectic, a parent may need a substitute driver at the last minute, so make sure all parents have each other’s phone numbers.)
  1. Enjoy the walk! As the Ocean Avenue Neighborhood Walking School Bus has found, these walks are social – not just for kids but for parents, too.  Many parents choose to walk more days just because it’s a nice way to start the day.
  1. Optional: This year, the Ocean Avenue Neighborhood Bus added on an optional Bike Train (see guide here), which runs two days a week in the fall and spring. The Walking School Bus continues to run every day, and two days a week a bicycling parent leads any student bikers to school.
  1. Celebrate! The Ocean Avenue Neighborhood Walking School Bus held a Walking School Bus BBQ to celebrate the group’s success of making it through a whole school year.  This is a great way to celebrate walking!

If you or families you know live within one mile of your community school and have a sidewalk network, what about trying to encourage a parent-led Walking School Bus?  Informal walking school buses and bicycle trains are easy to start and we can help you think through the possibilities for your community!  And if you already have a local Walking School Bus up and running, please contact us with your local stories, too.