Pierre, S.D., is a rural town with approximately 13,000 residents. One of its local elementary schools, Jefferson Elementary School, has more than 400 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. In 2003, the Jefferson Elementary Parent and Teachers Association (PTA) wanted to implement a program designed to encourage healthy behavior in the students. The PTA decided that yearly Walk to School Day events would be the best encouragement program for the students.
Jefferson Elementary’s Walk to School Day takes place every year on the same day as International Walk to School Day. Each year, the school staff, district superintendent, local media, parents and neighborhood volunteers attend the event. On Walk to School Day, the students dress in red to symbolize a heart-healthy lifestyle and walk with their parents and friends to school. To help ensure the safety of the students and parents walking, the South Dakota Department of Transportation recruits crossing guards to monitor busy intersections. Upon arriving at the school, the students and parents enjoy juice and muffins donated by the PTA and parent volunteers. To continue the momentum for physical activity started by the morning walk to school, the physical education teacher incorporates walking games into recess activities.
Since the first Walk to School Day event, the number of student pedestrians has increased from approximately 100 walkers in 2003 to more than 300 walkers in 2007. Aside from the increasing number of participants, Walk to School Day has had many other successes at Jefferson Elementary. Because of this event, parents and students recognize that it is possible to walk or bicycle to school. Also, the event has fostered feelings of school spirit and community pride in both the students and the community members. In addition to bringing together the community, the event also united the teachers and administrators at the school who worked together to incorporate healthy activities into the classrooms and the school environment.
Jefferson Elementary School
900 N Poplar Ave Pierre, SD 57501
Phone: (605) 733-7320