Walking School Bus

What is a Walking School Bus?Westvale PS Walking School Bus

The Walking School Bus is an organized system of walking with school children from home to school and back. Students in the same geographic area walk to school together under the supervision of an adult volunteer. Like a regular school bus, the Walking School Bus follows a planned and safe route with scheduled stops. Parents and other volunteers receive training and support to develop and implement the program and to supervise children walking to school.

In Waterloo Region, the Canadian Cancer Society offers a Walking School Bus program with support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Regional partners include the Waterloo Region Student Transportation Services, the Waterloo Region Block Parent program, and the Region of Waterloo Active and Safe Routes to School program.

Why participate in a Walking School Bus?

Walking to school is good for many reasons, including mental development, independent mobility, environmental, social and physical health benefits. A survey of families at four schools in Waterloo Region in 2015 found that parents of 4-10 year old students would allow their children to walk to school if…

  • They were older;
  • They did not have to walk alone;
  • There were less traffic dangers; and
  • There was a safer way to get there.

With families busier than ever, fewer students are afforded the opportunity to walk to school due to their age and lack of supervision. Walking School Buses are a convenient way for all children walk to school safely with the supervision of adults and/or older students.

My child already walks

Students who are currently walking to/from school can still participate and benefit from Walking School Buses. One of the most commonly reported benefits of Walking School buses is the social connections the adults and children build through their involvement (Kingham & Ussher, 2007). If you walk with your child(ren), you may want to consider helping out others in your neighbourhood by volunteering as a Walking School Bus leader.

We live too far from the school to walk

Most students who are not eligible for busing live within 1.6 km (1 mile) of their school. Using an average walking pace for children, a 1.6 km walk would take approximately 20 minutes. Try out the route with your child on a weekend and time yourselves. You might be surprised to see what your child is capable of! If it is still too far, consider joining up with a Walking School Bus at a stop closer to the school – at a distance your child is comfortable with.

If you are attending a school from outside of the school boundary and are not eligible for transportation, consider dropping your child off at a Walking School Bus stop rather than at the school.

My child is bussed to school

For many students who ride a bus to school, walking to their bus stop is just as important! A full Walking School Bus may not be feasible, so consider organizing a “walking buddies” program with others at your child’s bus stop. Older students can be paired up with younger ones to walk to the bus stop together or parents can take turns walking with students.

When do Walking School Buses operate?

Every school community is different, and it will be up to the Walking School Bus organizers to determine when and how frequently a Walking School Bus route will operate. Walking School Buses can be as formal or informal as needed. Consider the following potential options:

  • Full school year, or seasonal
  • Every week, or some weeks
  • Every month, or some months
  • Every day, or some days
  • Mornings and/or after school

How do we start a Walking School Bus program at our school?

There are several important steps to consider in implementing a Walking School Bus program. Here are some of the highlights:

Assess
  • How many students and families would be interested in participating?
  • Are there any safety concerns related to the neighbourhood and roads within it?
  • How far away from the school could the walking school bus start?
Plan
  • When will the walking school bus operate? (Be sure to consider weather, start times, etc.)
  • What if an adult or student volunteer is ill or away?
  • Identify relevant school policies and procedures and if additional ones are needed
  • Obtain support from school council and staff
  • Develop any forms that may be needed (e.g., consent, registration, etc.)
Prepare
  • Develop or revise policies identified during planning phase
  • Be sure to include procedures for leaders to follow should something happen.
    • For example what if…
      • Someone falls and injures self during walk
      • Someone forgets lunch, backpack or project
      • Someone starts a fight or displays bullying behaviour
      • Someone wanders away from the group and does not come back
  • Recruit and train volunteers
  • Recruit students and families to join the walking school bus
  • Plan the Walking School Bus route(s) based on where students live
  • Develop a schedule for walking school bus leaders
  • Develop a phone list for each walking school bus route (Be sure to include all participating families and volunteers)
  • Communicate with crossing guards
  • Arrange for other supports if needed (For example: some schools have used wagons to help carry backpacks, projects and musical instruments)
  • Develop a communication plan and materials to help maintain participation
  • Develop evaluation and feedback tools

For more information, please refer to the Canadian Cancer Society Walking School Bus program

Walking School Bus Videos

Benefits

In Québec, the following benefits of the Canadian Cancer Society’s Walking School Bus (Trottibus) program have been noted:

Parent

Sharing responsibility for the transportation of children

Less stress – less rush in the morning

Good time with your kids and their friends when you walk

Municipality

Greener neighbourhoods

Lower risk of collisions

Less traffic

School

Less traffic around the school

Better concentration in class

Young walkers become more punctual

Child

Daily physical activity

Opportunity to become a good pedestrian

Enjoyment and sense of belonging to a group

FUN!!!

Volunteer

Daily physical activity

Involvement in citizens in a inter-generational project

Social interaction

FUN!!!

Beyond the health benefits, the Canadian Cancer Society’s Walking School Bus program:

  • Makes the transportation of children to school safe
  • Works against bullying
  • Helps in the integration of immigrants in multicultural areas
  • Provides a free and accessible means for all students to get to school
  • Creates an environment conducive to physical activity