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18 Aug, Thursday
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Montreal Families

Walk-to-school program gaining momentum

Have you ever heard something like this? “Well back in my day, we had to walk 15 miles to get to school.” It’s a familiar refrain used on kids who are often ferried around and have no clue what it’s like to have to walk somewhere.

It appears walking to school may truly be a foreign concept to children these days; according to ParticipACTION’s annual report on Canadian children and physical activity, children are increasingly being bused or driven by their parents.

About six years ago, the team working on prevention and health promotion at Quebec’s chapter of the Canadian Cancer Society started looking at ways to encourage children to get moving. Research shows that healthy living can help prevent cancer, but only nine per cent of children ages 5 to 17 get 60 minutes of heart-pumping physical activity every day. They looked at how more children can incorporate active modes of transportation into their lives – kids need to get from point A to point B, so why not have them walk?

“Parents will often opt to enrol their kids in sports [so they get enough exercise], but that takes money and time and we know today’s parents work so there’s a lack of time,” said Veronique Gallant, active transportation coordinator at the Canadian Cancer Society’s Quebec division.

In 2010, Trottibus was created. It follows the same concept as a school bus, except the children walk instead of being driven. There are designated stops on a route that isn’t more than 1.6 kilometres long, and takes approximately 20 minutes to complete.

Adult volunteers walk the kids to the school (but not before completing a training course and having a background check done). The target clientele is children from kindergarten to Grade 3. After that, the children become assistants to the volunteers, helping supervise the younger children along their route.

Last school year, 1,890 students from 63 schools across Quebec took part in the program. Some schools use Trottibus during the warmer months and take a hiatus in the winter, while others go year round. The program’s success hasn’t gone unnoticed – it will soon be implemented as a pilot project in schools in Ontario and Nova Scotia.

There are benefits for all involved, Gallant said. The program can curb the potential for bullying while walking to and from school, helps schools reduce the traffic at the front entrance for drop off and pick up, and gets parents involved in the school community. Also, children get to school on time and are more focused.

For more information, call 514-255-5151 or visit trottibus.ca.

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