Youth Encouragement Programs
Ecology Action provides a number of encouragement programs to K-12 schools throughout Santa Cruz County in order to encourage students to use active forms of transportation more often. More students walking, biking, skating or scooting to school equals healthier, more active kids and less cars around school neighborhoods. Less car congestion results in decreased greenhouse gas emissions and safer routes for students. By making active transportation fun, these programs aim to change habits.
Children’s lives have altered dramatically over the last few decades. One of the most notable changes is how little independence and mobility they now have as compared to previous years. National statistics show that in 1969, 42% of students walked or biked to school; by 2001 that number dropped to only 16%. Even more surprising, less than half of students who live within a mile of school walk or bike even once a week.
Ecology Action’s encouragement programs are a part of our local Safe Routes to School efforts focused on getting more kids to use active forms of transportation more often. Often, our encouragement programs are paired with education programs to ensure students are not only commuting more often but are doing so safety. To read more about Ecology Action’s Safe Routes to school programs visit our education page.
Currently, Ecology Action is running the following encouragement programs: Active4Me, our bi-annual Bike/Walk to School program and a Monthly Bike/Walk to School program. For more information on our school programs contact our staff at email@example.com.
MONTHLY BIKE/WALK TO SCHOOL PROGRAM:
This Monthly program is similar to our bi-annual Bike/Walk to School Day but occurs on a monthly basis throughout the school year in targeted schools throughout the County. Every month students are encouraged to bike/walk/skate/scoot to school in order to receive healthy snacks, stickers and be eligible to win fun raffle prizes including helmets, bike locks, lights, and more. Student leadership groups and clubs are encouraged to participate by helping with outreach to their peers leading up to each event.
Barcode tags attached to students’ backpacks are scanned with hand-held scanners similar to the ones used in the grocery store by parent volunteers. When students arrive at school they are scanned in if they biked/walked/skated/scooted to school. Volunteers are a great source of encouragement for the students and Active4me allows volunteers to report out students’ accomplishments at each scan. Parents and students can also view the Active4Me website to see total trips, miles travelled, calories burned, green house gases spared and points earned by choosing active transportation. Points can be used to buy fun safety related prizes at monthly Active4Me stores. Parents can also choose to receive a notification via phone, email or text that their child has arrived at school safely.
Esperanza has a 4th grader at H.A. Hyde Elementary School in Watsonville. Her daughter joined the Active4Me program in 2014. She also took part in a free class Ecology Action staff hosted for any parents and potential volunteers interested in learning computer skills. This year, Esperanza is one of our weekly volunteers that helps run the program at her daughters school. Here’s some of her thoughts on the way this program has positively impacted their family:
“We enjoy starting the day off walking to school…I like having this time to go over safety rules with her and the exercise is a plus. We always find ways to make it fun. We get to spend time together, laugh together, collect pretty flowers along the way and we also like to race to school. The three of us, my little one gets really into it trying to keep up, arrive to school laughing and out of breath but always in a good mood…I realized how much I enjoyed walking with her to school once I started working again…People say that as wives and/or mothers we should stop to take time to ourselves. My walk home after dropping my daughter off is that time for me…I got to know a few neighbors this way. Getting to know other families coming from the same neighborhoods makes me feel more comfortable sending my daughter to school alone if I can’t go with her…More kids are aware of how the fact that they have to walk to school is making a positive impact on their health. I see that messaging being delivered to my daughter as well as she says she likes to walk for the exercise.”