Nutley is a fantastic town for walking and biking. Not only do we have a beautiful park system, but our school district is organized around a neighborhood model, so all students can walk to their designated elementary schools as well as to the middle and high schools in the center of town.
While we have more students walking to school than the national average—23% of Nutley students vs. 13% nationally (according to the Centers for Disease Control)—we know there are many more prospective walkers among us. To that end, the Yantacaw Walks pilot of the Nutley Walks to School Program aims to increase the number of Nutley students who walk to school, beginning with Yantacaw Elementary School students and graduating Yantacaw 6th graders who will start walking to the middle school in September 2014.
Dr. Richard Jackson, leading public health expert and Nutley Walks to School Executive Advisor, warns: “By engineering physical activity out of children’s lives, the health consequences are frightening. A growing number of kids are developing diseases once seen only in adults, such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and fatty livers.” Cue walking to/from school, one of the simplest ways for children to incorporate physical activity into their daily routines.
The core initiatives of Yantacaw Walks include: walk-to-school pledges; route improvements and signage; kick-off and weekly walk-to-school events; classroom and school-wide challenges; educational materials (students, parents, teachers, drivers); a vibrant Facebook presence; and substantial promotion through traditional and social media channels.
Central to the success of Yantacaw Walks is support from town and district officials, school administrators/staff, classroom teachers, and parents. We’ll actively invite and gather feedback to improve our efforts all along the way, and also measure success quantitatively by participation and walks logged.
With an eye toward scaling our efforts district-wide, the pilot will create a reusable plan and set of materials that can be adapted by each of the other Nutley schools to suit their needs and local culture.
As Yantacaw Walks takes its first of many steps, we’ll keep you posted!