More than 575 students at ten (10) Hunterdon County elementary and intermediate schools took part in “Winter Walks” to school last month. The walks are part of a year round effort by the Hunterdon County Safe Routes to School Program to encourage students in walking school districts to walk, rather than be driven, to school.
Studies show that walking to school has social and academic benefits. By increasing physical activity, walking reduces stress and increases creativity, both of which will help a child’s performance at school. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience (UK) found that children who walked for 20 minutes performed better on reading comprehension than those who sat for a similar length of time.
Safety education goes hand and hand with the encouragement. New Jersey has a pedestrian fatality rate that is double the nation average. “The Hunterdon County Safe Routes to School Program teaches students in grades K-8 how to be good pedestrians, a skill that will stay with them for a lifetime,” says Tara Shepherd, executive director of HART, the local nonprofit association that facilitates the Safe Routes to School Program in Hunterdon County.
The Winter Walks were conducted via “walking school buses”, designated, chaperoned routes to school. Parents and faculty joined students as they make their way to school. “Students are reminded to look ‘left, right, and left again’ and make eye contact with motorists before crossing,” says Ryan Fisher, HART Pedestrian and Bicycle Programs Coordinator.
Participating schools included Bloomsbury Elementary School, Califon Public School, Delaware Township School, Frenchtown Elementary School, Hampton Public School, High Bridge Elementary School, Lambertville Public School, Lebanon Borough School, Reading Fleming Intermediate School, and Stockton Borough School.
For more information on the Hunterdon County Safe Routes to School Program, contact Ryan Fisher, 908-788-5553/ firstname.lastname@example.org.