Winston Salem, North Carolina: Local University Helps Children Safely Walk to School

Introduction

Whitaker Elementary School is surrounded by residential streets, making it an ideal location for a Walk to School program. Without a formal program in place, Dr. Gary Miller, a professor from the Health and Exercise Science department at Wake Forest University approached the assistant principal with a plan to start one at the elementary school.

Activities

In spring 2007, Whitaker Elementary began “Whitaker Walks on Wednesdays” in association with an environment and health class that Dr. Miller teaches to students at Wake Forest. Students enrolled in the class helped coordinate the daily walks and volunteered during the walks to monitor the sidewalks, encourage children to continue to walk by asking them questions about their experience and to hand out small incentives, such as pencils and stickers.

With a $700 grant from Wake Forest, several pedometers were purchased, which are rotated among the students, so they can track their mileage. The program was successful during spring 2007; approximately 20 to 25 students walking regularly, and there was a large amount of parent support and encouragement.

Milestones

Beginning in fall 2007, Whitaker Elementary School will continue “Whitaker Walks on Wednesdays” and also will expand the program to include educational activities. The total miles walked by students will be logged onto a North Carolina map, with the goal of walking enough miles to cross the state and to educate the students on North Carolina’s geography. Math exercises will be introduced as the students calculate how far they have walked. Students who live too far from the school to participate in the “Whitaker Walks on Wednesday” events still will be able to participate in activities during recess and short exercise breaks throughout the day.

Dr. Miller also has applied for an additional grant for $2,500 from Wake Forest. If received, the funds will be used to pay a Wake Forest student to serve as a coordinator of SRTS events. Once the Walk to School Days at Whitaker Elementary is set, the program will expand to other schools in the area.

Contact

Gary Miller
Wake Forest University Professor
Phone: (336) 758-1901
Email: millergd@wfu.edu