115 Students Participate in Maui’s First Ever “Walking School Bus”
Students, parents, and volunteers of Pōmaikaʻi Elementary School walked to the Kahului school on Wednesday as part of the school’s Walking School Bus Program, hosted by Blue Zones Project—Central Maui.
Organizers explained that a walking school bus is a group of children walking to school together. “For elementary students, the group is accompanied by one or more adults. It can be as informal as a few families doing a carpool without a car or as formal as a mapped out walking route with regular meeting points, times, and volunteers,” organizers said.
Laksmi Abraham, Community Program Manager of the Blue Zones Project said on Wednesday, “we are delighted to host Pōmaikaʻi’s first-ever Walking School Bus in an effort to help kids and parents incorporate more movement into their day. As Blue Zones Project continues to work to transform Central Maui into a healthier, happier community, we hope more schools will adopt the practice of encouraging ways to get kids walking and moving naturally to better health. We hope this is only the beginning.”
For Wednesday’s event, two walking routes, each less than a mile long, were created with the help of the County of Maui’s Safe Routes to School Program.
Kurt Watanabe, Safe Routes to School Coordinator and Civil Engineer said, “[the] County of Maui is committed to making walking and biking to school safer and more appealing, so people are encouraged to practice a healthier, more active lifestyle from an early age. Creating these habits early in life are key to transforming communities towards better health.”
Students who live farther than walking distance can choose to join the walking school buses at certain pre-arranged meeting places. For older children or neighborhoods with safe bike routes, students can form a bicycle train with an adult chaperone or without (for middle or high school students).
Organizers note that 30 years ago, 60% of elementary school students in America walked to school. Now, less than 15% of elementary kids walk to school, according to Blue Zones Project representatives. “Research shows that children who walk to school are more alert and ready to learn. Walking to school also reduces traffic congestion around schools,” organizers said.
Kate Welch, Arts Integration Curriculum Coordinator and Coach at Pōmaikaʻi Elementary School said, “at Pōmaikaʻi we strive for whole child wellness. The Walking School Bus provided students an opportunity to be active, socialize with their peers, and celebrate wellness. We are so grateful Blue Zones Project brought this incredible program to our school.”