Walking School Bus In Fleetwood
Fleetwood Area School District
Activating an Entire District 07/05
The walking school bus makes its way to Fleetwood Elementary
In the heart of Berks County's Pennsylvania Dutch Country where foods like shoo fly pie, 'sticky buns' and hearty meats and pot pies are dinner-time staples, the legacy of heavy eating habits poses a challenge to this generation. Unlike their ancestors who burned off those high calorie meals with long hours in the field, tending to the county's farms, today's kids spend much of their time in front of computers and TVs, and simply aren't as active as their grandparents.
But Fleetwood Area School District has launched a campaign to change that.
All five buildings in the district have enrolled for a second year as Keystone Healthy Zone Schools, and all five have embarked on major initiatives to get their kids up and moving with walking programs, partnerships with a local gym, a walk-to-school day, and complementary nutrition education programs.
At the center of the efforts are the district's school health councils.
"I had wanted to put one together for several years now, but never had the time allotted to do it," says Jan Warischalk, certified school nurse at Andrew Maier Elementary and the district's other elementary buildings, who has been leading Fleetwood's Keystone Healthy Zone initiatives.
Each of Fleetwood's school buildings won a Keystone Healthy Zone Mini-Grant from PANA...
Jan invited the school's guidance counselors, physical education teachers, health teachers, other nurses, principals, community members, school board members, parents, students, a local pastor, and others. She used Powerpoint presentations from PANA's website to explain the obesity epidemic and to talk about the importance of quality physical education and good nutrition. This year the school health councils will break into building levels and will focus on writing wellness policies....
Jan and the district nurses had been tracking students body mass indexes for several years and saw that they were high. Andrew Maier building principal Anthony Bonanni suggested a walking program would be a good way to get the kids active in a structured, safe manner during recess.
Fleetwood Elementary students rallied with parents, teachers and school administrators for Walk to School DayBonanni also challenged the kids to keep track of their steps --- and to walk the equivalent of the mileage (3,000 miles) to Bandon, Oregon, a sort of 'sister city' to the school's hometown of Blandon. The students met the challenge by Christmas, so he then challenged them to "walk to" Brandon, Florida by the end of the school year.
The school gave students cards to log their mileage, and rewards them for miles walked. The rewards, which are quite significant - last year Jan gave out 10 bicycles - are being purchased with grant money from the Department of Community and Economic Development that Pennsylvania Senator Michael O'Pake helped the school obtain. For every 20 miles walked, students got to put one ticket in a drawing for a bike. For every five miles above that, they got to add an additional ticket. Students collectively logged 7,000 miles in the 2004-05 school year.
A parent in the school district who works as an architect, John Watkins, is also donating much of his time at a discounted rate to help build a walking trail around the perimeter of the high school's campus.
In May, Fleetwood Elementary held a walk to school day program in which more than 100 students - about half of the building's population - walked with parents, grandparents, teachers and supervisors in groups to school. They carried signs with slogans like, "Fit at Fleetwood," and many told school nurse Julie Knabb, who organized the program, that they were eager to do it again in the fall....