Walking school bus wins Play Exchange, $1 million investment funding

Do your kids walk to school every morning? The answer for too many parents is an unfortunate no. There’s not time. The school is too far. We carpool with friends, instead. There are countless reasons why kids today walk to school only half as often as their parents did and are scoring failing grades on annual activity reports issued by Active Healthy Kids Canada. But a new “school bus” is gearing up to change things. For the better.

Trottibus Walking School Bus, an initiative from the Canadian Cancer Society, is a walking school bus network. No, it’s not quite a Flintstones-esque vehicle powered by running feet (though we admit that would be pretty cool). It is, however, a method for getting large groups of children safely to school on their own two feet. Without their parents needing to walk there with them.

Sound too good to be true? Well, lucky for Canadians, it’s not. The winner of this year’s Play Exchange, in January Trottibus was chosen by Canadians in a country-wide vote as the best initiative for getting Canada healthier.

And if – with the $1 million dollars in funding it will receive from the federal government – it really does make Canada healthier, it’s surely one of the more fun ways to do it.

The “school bus” walks a set route with many planned stops along the way, just like a regular school bus. Children and adults wear bright and conspicuous vests for the duration of the walk so that they are clearly visible. Children get their “boarding passes” punched and then volunteers walk the “bus” from stop to stop, picking up other waiting children along the way.

Something particularly interesting about this project is that it operates with trained volunteers who learn how to safely manage large groups of walking children. We love that even the volunteers get healthier thanks to Trottibus, so it’s not just for the kids’ benefit.

With or without Trottibus in your neighbourhood, spring is here and it’s a perfect time to start making an effort to walk to school. Pick a nice-weather day, dress accordingly, and start walking.

And if your kids start complaining that the walk to school is tiring or too long? Well, it’s probably a good time to tell them about Jean Béliveau, the Trottibus Walking School Bus ambassador, who has literally walked around the world. (Because we know kids are going to ask: It took him 11 years! He left Canada in August, 2000 and returned in October, 2011.) Somehow, that makes the trip to school seem much more achievable, doesn’t it?

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