Our school bus enjoyed the first day of snow. All decked out in snow gear, excitement reigned as kids celebrated the first snow by throwing, eating, kicking and tromping through the previous night’s snowfall.
We are a walking school bus, so our “ride” to school involves fresh air, exercise, and a small community of Jefferson Montessori families. The first two kids on the bus leave their houses, directly across the street from each other, walk down the block to the first “stop” under the watchful eye of a parent. Another child is driven to this first stop. There, they are supervised crossing the street and walk to the next bus stop, picking up the kids at the last stop. They continue on with a parent to navigate across the busy streets and see them safely to school or close enough to join in with other walkers. In the afternoon, the process is reversed.
A recent study showed that when compared with children who took a car ride to school, kids who walked a mile to school had improved heart rates, blood pressure and stress levels and performed better on a test, indicating that their stress reactivity was improved by walking. We have five families, at this time, on our walking school bus who see many benefits beyond the fresh air and exercise. The kids were proud of starting the walking school bus to help the environment, have fewer cars on the road and spend more time with friends. They also get to practice problem-solving skills, like, “How do we get that backpack out of that tree?”
Parents see many benefits for the whole family, including less time spent driving and parking at school, helping to give our kids transition time between the two major places they spend their days, and simpler schedules for those families with multiple drop-offs and pick-ups. The walking school bus allows a larger measure of safety as the kids walk in a big group with parental oversight. For my family, it’s a practical way of having our kids walk to school that wouldn’t happen if it were just up to our family. As a group, it works!
Because we are made up of Montessori families, we are just a bit beyond school boundaries but still close enough to walk. We do have to navigate across some busy streets without lights or crosswalks. We made a set of rules and a specific route, and we reviewed it as a group to ensure safety.
The winter weather has proved challenging much of the time, but we have enjoyed some snowy trudges together. Plan B often involves carpooling. One memorable car ride home included a packed car of serenading children, practicing their songs for the winter music program.
Our route continues to provide new wonders as seasons change. We have enjoyed huge mountains of leaves piled up by the Parks Department, the beauty of individual fall leaves, crunching the thin film of ice over shallow puddles after the first frost. We even moved a huge fallen tree limb together to clear the road.
We are just starting to walk with consistency again with warmer weather and no snow covering our route, and hope to maintain bus service throughout the school year!