GLADSTONE - Gladstone students wrapped up the Safe Routes to School program at Gladstone Junior High on May 25 with a Walk to School Day. Students, faculty, and staff walked to school that morning.
This marked the end of SRTS in Gladstone. The program encouraged students to walk or bike to school as a way to promote exercise and combat childhood obesity.
"In 1969, half of all people walked to school," said Bridget Naser, health educator at Public Health, Delta & Menominee Counties. "Now it's less than 15 percent."
Students at Gladstone Junior High walked to school recently, as part of the Safe Routes to School Program. The program aims to promote walking and biking to school as a means of combating
childhood obesity. The walk was one of the
program’s final events. (Daily Press photo by Ilsa Matthes)
Last year, walking routes to the school were assessed for safety. Students and parents were also given surveys.
The surveys showed that more students would like to walk or bike to school but that safety concerns and distance were issues.
For Friday's walk, many students were bused in by the ballpark and Yacht Harbor before walking to the school. "We have busses because not all kids live within a walking distance," said Naser. "So they get to get a taste of what it is like."
SRTS is a national program. Michigan's SRTS is managed by the Michigan Department of Transportation with support from the Michigan Fitness Foundation. The program was brought to Gladstone and Escanaba schools by funding through the Michigan Department of Community Health.
"The program in a nutshell is to encourage walking and biking to school to make it a more appealing transportation alternative, encouraging a healthy lifestyle," said Naser.
Other activities through out the two-year program helped students to be able to identify safe routes for walking and biking. "The kids went out and took photos of the dangerous spots like missing sidewalks; missing crosswalks," said Naser. The students also mapped out routes and presented their findings to the public at an open house.
According to Naser, junior high school aged children need 30 minutes of physical activity in a day, and the walk to and from school could be enough to get their daily requirement. "This is a good way to get your exercise in just getting transportation," she said.
The funding through the Michigan Department of Community Health was only for two years of participation and both Gladstone and Escanaba have ended the program. The Escanaba walk took place on May 18.
Gladstone and Escanaba will continue to promote walking and biking to school and may hold Walk to School Days in the future, but they will no longer be involved in the national program.
For more information about the Safe Routes to School program in Michigan visit saferoutesmichigan.org.