For thousands of children right here in our community, walking and biking to school isn’t as simple — or safe — as it once was. But Freeman Elementary School parent Becca Robertson is working hard to change that. Becca, known as Ms Becca in the neighborhood, works with the Crim Fitness Foundation’s Safe Routes to School team to make it fun and safe for children at Freeman Elementary to get on their bikes or step out the door to get to school each day.
Throughout the year, the Safe Routes to School team educates students on safe walking and biking practices as well as encourages students to walk to school with friends or parents. In the walk to school program, students earn points and cash them in for a chance to join in a school-wide smoothie party where they have the fun of whipping up a variety of fruits in a bicycle-powered “fender blender.”
“When the kids found out they could earn fruit for a smoothie, they really got into it,” Becca laughed. “At one point, we had 30 kids walking to school together. At the elementary level, where hallways and classes are quiet spaces, walking to school together really gives them that time to laugh, joke, play around and have friend time.”
At least once a week, Becca and other parents and adult volunteers join the students on their walk to school. Parents use the time to interact with one another and get to know school staff. The Safe Routes to School team uses it as an opportunity to check in with students about safety concerns on their walks to school, said Becca.
In neighborhoods where crime is an unfortunate reality, Safe Routes to School makes a big difference. “Before this program, we had a lot of kids who were walking by themselves,” said Becca. “Now they are walking with partners and making new friends. I want parents to know their child doesn’t need to walk alone. When kids walk to school with us, they come to school safe and happy!”