How I get to school Poster Contest

A Family’s Story: First Year Walking Home from School
Author: Lori Powell, Executive Director, Niagara Student Transportation Services (NSTS)

My goal for the month of April is to learn more about the benefits of Active School Travel (AST) from real people who are champions supporting children to have an active journey to school. This week, I interviewed a mom who just this school year decided to let her children walk home from school. Prior to this school year, the children attended in-school daycare and extended family support at the end of the school day until her and her husband were home from work.

Here is their story:

The family lives 1.2km from school and starting the first day of school, Maria and Julian, Grades 6 and 3 respectively, walked home from school for the first time! 

The family prepared and practiced the walk to school on summer evenings, parents teaching their children how to navigate the route, intersections and commercial business driveways. Soon, the parents walked behind their children, building confidence with their new skills. Mom communicated with the parents of neighbourhood school mates and notified them of their intention to walk home from school. To prepare for the time home alone until their parents get home from work, Maria took the Home Alone course. Mom provided Maria with a cell phone with a group text to mom, dad and grandparents when they are leaving the school and again upon their arrival home.

The first day of school arrived and it did not take long for other school mates to join Maria and Julian on the walk home from school. The group of school mates have organized their walking route including meeting points, points where they part ways and communications. Not all students in this walking group are in the same class, but they are forging friendships and spending time together outside of the walk home playing within their neighbourhood and walking to the park.

Mom proudly shared that the children have learned to organize, they have gained independence, they have learned to get from A to B, they have built confidence and they are unwinding and getting exercise after school with a 15-minute walk in the fresh air. They dress for the weather, their mental health has improved, their screen time has decreased and, in the evening the kids want to go outside to be active with friends and their family. The children are having daily adventures and share stories of the praying mantis they encountered on the way home or the team effort to find a lost walking mate’s cell phone retracing their steps. 

Mom said on day one she was nervous and was glued to her phone waiting for the text of her children’s safe arrival home. Now, she is so happy they made the transition and her family has benefitted so greatly. She recalled walking to school when she was growing up, and she smiled while sharing that her children are thriving and learning to be part of their community. I could sense her pleasure of the growth her family experienced this year.

Why am I telling this story? In addition to providing student transportation services, NSTS supports the 22,500 students who live within the school walk zones by offering AST programs in a partnership with Niagara Region Public Health (NRPH). NSTS has expanded information available on the website for parents to support their child’s active travel to school or to the bus stop. To learn more about how to bring AST programs to your school, email AST@nsts.ca.