By Elliot Grandia
Entirely East Lansing staff writer
Come this Oct. 5, the buses transporting Marble Elementary students may look emptier than usual- and the sidewalks a little busier. Marble Elementary in East Lansing will be participating in International Walk to School day, held annually on Oct. 5, as a way to get students to ditch the bus for a day and enjoy some extra steps on their way to school.
This is the fourth walk the elementary school has put on, according to Tracy Moreno, a parent and wellness activist.
Students will begin their walking route at Hannah Center off of Abbot Road and continue onto Burcham until they reach the elementary school, according to Michigan Elementary-Safe Routes to School Marble Elementary school action plan.
“The route is around one mile and will take about 20 minutes,” Moreno said, adding that Sparty and various city officials will escort students on their journey.
“Last years’ event had about 250 participants at Marble alone and 3,550 schools participating nationally,” Katie, a representative of the Walk to School Team, wrote in an email.
The previous walk seemed to have a positive impact on those who participated.
Kristen Casby, a second-grade teacher at Marble said, “Students are upbeat and happy while walking to school,” adding that she believes that the walk is a great way to promote healthy habits for not only the kids but the adults.
Students enjoyed the chance to fit in some extra exercise and hang out with their friends.
“I like it because it gives me time to walk and I don’t usually do much walking and running because I sleep in later and don’t have time to walk,” Marble Elementary second-grader Baily said.
Katherine, also a second-grader at Marble Elementary, said she enjoyed the walk because “you get to walk to school with your friends; I usually have to take the bus.”
Additionally, the walk may have contributed to better student behavior.
“Students are in better moods, which translates into less referrals (misbehavior),” Marble Elementary Principal Ruth Riddle said.
Though the event is a fun break from the students’ and parents’ normal routine, it is a part of a larger campaign to motivate students to try alternative ways of transportation outside of busing or cars.
As stated on Saferoutesmichigan.org, “The Walk to School Day encourages physical fitness, heightens awareness of traffic, safety and environmental concerns around schools, and to help kick-off a community Safe Routes to School initiative.”
According to an action plan presented by the Marble Parent Council and Wellness Committee, on average 200 cars drop off students to school out of the 360 total students.
With numbers like this, roads can get very congested around the school, Moreno said.
She believes the walk is a solution to tackle the rising childhood obesity problem.
“Why not look at the simplest solution? Walking to school can help kids get their steps for the day in before the school day.” Moreno said.
One area school has taken the leap and formed a Safer Route to School initiative by forming “walking buses” in the morning as a safe and healthy alternative to catching a ride to school.
Horizon Elementary in Holt has begun a program aimed at getting students to be more active.
According to Horizon Principal David Hornak, the elementary school is down to two buses to transport students.
In reaction to the change, Hornak said he has seen positive outcomes.
“When students exercise before and during school, not only have we seen that they are more engaged, but bad behavior has plummeted.” Hornak said.
Marble Elementary School parent, Thomas Baumann, said he would like to see a similar plan enacted at the school.
“I don’t think I have ever dropped off my daughter in a car; its only a 10-minute walk and most of the time she really enjoys it.” Baumann said.
Furthermore, Baumann believes it is a great example when parents walk with their kids to school; demonstrating that not every location has to be reached by car.