How this Vancouver school created lasting change in their community

Editor’s note: This post was updated on Nov. 10, 2019.

Take a moment and imagine the scene outside your child’s school just minutes before the morning bell. What does it look like?

If the first image in your mind is of cars jockeying for position in the drop-off zone, you are not alone. Driving to school, rather than walking, riding, or taking transit, has become the routine mode of transportation for kids.

After recognizing that driving habits were actually putting students at risk, one school in North Vancouver put their foot down, both literally and figuratively. Canyon Heights Elementary School introduced Freedom Friday in December 2015 and began “a weekly celebration focused on encouraging walking, cycling, or any other people-powered means to get to and from class,” as described in an article by Daily Hive.

The move came as a result of a particularly enthusiastic group of parents. Although the goal was to create a safe means of commuting to school, unexpected benefits have occurred as a result of Freedom Friday. Families, who might never have connected otherwise, are meeting, and newcomers to the area are enjoying the increase in community spirit.

But perhaps the most intriguing initiative created was the Drive to Five zones, “areas where parking is easier to find, and [their] kids can still stretch their legs (and their brains) with a five-minute walk.”

Since the inaugural Freedom Friday in December, Canyon Heights has experienced enormous success with the program and are looking to expand in the future. Thinking back to the morning scene you imagined outside your child’s school, does an initiative like the one in North Vancouver seem realistic? How would it look different at your child’s school?

Freedom Friday began the discussion. Let’s keep it going.

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