7 October 2019
Students, teachers and parents of Oak Park Primary School are getting a healthy start to the day and reducing car travel via their Walking School Buses from Station Street and New Road, Oak Park, twice a week.
The Walking School Buses (WSB) are supervised by trained volunteer school parents, while the children take turns in helping to guide the group to safely cross the road.
But the difficulties in recruiting parent volunteers to facilitate the WSB means that the wheels of the Oak Park Primary WSB may stop turning.
According to VicHealth, 70% of children are driven to school even though 80% live within 3km of their school.
Organiser of the WSB and parent-volunteer ‘bus driver’, Stacey Lowry said there are many benefits that come with walking to school.
“The children are learning road and pedestrian safety, they’re able to make new friends, get some Vitamin D and exercise, ease road congestion around school zones, and reduce pollution,” Ms Lowry said.
And most importantly, once they arrive at school, they are more mentally alert and ready to start their day of learning.”
At age 7, Pyper already knows that getting fresh air in the morning is a good way to start the day.
“It’s a good way to make your brain awake. It is fun to chat with your friends. It keeps you healthy and safe, it teaches you road safety.”
And Sharkya, aged 10, knows it’s about footsteps over footprint.
“If we walk, we save the environment because we don’t use the petrol.”
By walking to school the children are getting to know their neighbourhood, and discovering the quirks of their surroundings.
Spotting a pig soft toy in a tree has become a morning ritual, and a fun way to ‘initiate’ children new to the Oak Park Primary WSB. The group have also had the opportunity to help an elderly man find his keys on the footpath and even walk a neighbour’s dog to school.
Mayor of Moreland, Cr Natalie Abboud said it was great to see Oak Park Primary School community embracing healthy and sustainable travel choices, especially for shorter distances.
“The WSB relies on volunteer and community leadership. We hope to see this initiative continue into the future, and hope it inspires other school communities in Moreland to run their own walking school bus.”