There’s a new buzz on the streets and roads of New Zealand towns and city’s…the buzz of the walking school bus.
This relatively new phenomenon is becoming more and more popular with lots of kiwi families as fuel prices continue to rise and health and fitness becomes more of a concern for all of us.
So how does it all work and what is a Walking School Bus?
The Walking school Bus is a fun, safe and active way for children to travel to and from primary school with adult supervision. It’s a bit like car pooling but without the car. Each bus walks along a set route with at least one adult “driver”, picking children up at designated stops and walking them to school. The process is reversed in the afternoons.
Most commonly there are two adults in charge of the bus, the ‘driver’ and ‘tail-end charlie’.
What are the benefits of using the Walking School Bus?
There are many benefits to using the walking school bus –
Both you and the kids get some exercise in the morning and afternoon.
Meeting new people –
Walking School Buses are a great way to get to get to know the people who live around you. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Save your petrol! Walk with the children to school.
Learning road sense –
Your littlies get to learn the ways of the road and become more road wise. The Walking School Bus actively promotes road safety in an ongoing way. Older children can be motivated to be involved by giving them responsibilities like helping and teaching younger children how to cross the road.
Older children can be given a little more responsibility and gain a sense of independence….all under the guidance of adults.
Extra time for parents –
You may not have to walk to and from school several days of the week (depending on the roster you have worked out).
How does it work?
The key success for Walking School Buses is having enough reliable and enthusiastic adult volunteers. Initial enthusiasm needs to be harnessed and maintained. Sometimes it’s easy for everyone to up their hand up initially but often times early enthusiasm and energy peters out! This can lead to disappointment if children are let down and buses get ‘flat tyres’.
Initially a teacher from the school may help coordinate the bus, but a parent coordinator is vital to overseeing the day to day operation, maintaining the roster, and organising a back-up if a volunteer is sick or away. It’s important that this person is someone who doesn’t mind ‘keeping on top’ of parents who have offered to help.
Sharing the responsibility between a group of helpers means that many parents will need to spend less time transporting their children.
Where do they go?
The route for the bus may be fairly obvious – generally Walking School Buses follow main roads or routes to school and they target areas where lots of children live or where crossing busy roads can be difficult and dangerous. Sometimes there is parent support for alternative or secondary routes coming from two different directions, especially after a major route has proved successful.
How do I get a bus started?
There are wonderful resources available for parents and teachers on the “Feet First” website (funded by the NZ Transport Agency), including a Parents Guide in PDF format here. This PDF guide will outline all the steps you need to go through in order to start up a Walking School Bus.
There is likely someone at your school that will have information about Walking School Buses for you or be able to help you get started. Often times the first group is set up by a coordinator at the school and then taken on by a parent. Ask around, you might be surprised who is prepared to help you out.