A relatively slow-paced activity in Lansing's schools has quickly been gaining steam — now it's time to go global.
A relatively slow-paced activity in Lansing's schools has quickly been gaining steam — now it's time to go global. Each morning at Lansing Elementary School and once a week at Lansing Middle School, students have been taking to the track for those schools' respective walking clubs. Both clubs are relatively new, having been around for about a month, but neither have taken much time gaining popularity. Salliejo Evers, the Safe Routes to Schools coordinator at LES, said the response has been somewhat unexpected — she anticipated about 10 students to come out the first morning before school to walk. About 80 showed up. “Every time we do it, there's more kids,” she said. The first week at the elementary school, she said students together logged more than 143 miles of walking. On the most recent week for which data was available, she said the 215 students who are part of the club walked 236 miles. The numbers have been increasing steadily at the Middle School, too, where students can walk with Principal Kerry Brungardt — on Thursday, there were more than 200 students on the track. Evers said she does not yet have firm numbers as to the distances those students have walked but said school administrators are keeping track of the miles. As impressive as the speed in which the clubs' rosters filled up was, it is perhaps just as surprising that the students took to it without much incentive, she said. “They were not told that there would be a reward,” when the program began, Evers said. Now, the schools are asking for the community to join in as they celebrate International Walk to School Day beginning at 6:50 a.m. Wednesday, with walking school buses led by adult volunteers gathering at four different sites — St. Francis De Sales Church at 900 Ida St., Country Club Bank at Main Street and 4-H Road, Lansing Lumber at Main at Ida streets and outside the Lansing School District office at 401 S. Second St. Evers said organizers planned those sites as drop-off points, so students who lived far enough away from school as to make the walk difficult otherwise could still be a part of the event. At about 7:10 a.m., the buses will depart from the gathering sites, following safe walking routes established beforehand. The walk will culminate with a mini-celebration at Lansing Elementary School's kindergarten through second-grade playground, complete with members of the Lansing Middle School band and cheerleading squad and the city's Mayor, Ken Bernard, reading a proclamation in recognition of the occasion. Evers said community members are welcome to offer volunteer help by contacting her at firstname.lastname@example.org. “I think we need to show the kids that our community is behind them with what they're doing,” Evers said. The event is part of an ongoing effort stemming from the Safe Routes to School grant that the district received last year. One phase of that grant allowed the city and the school to extend walking and bicycle trails near schools. Another phase funds educational programs to encourage walking to school. But the walk next week, in addition to being part of an international observance, also fits in with a staff fitness initiative that launched this year. Evers said about half the LES faculty are now wearing pedometers for the first of a series of monthly fitness themes. Given the success of the first month, she said she anticipates the walking activities to continue. “Kids are walking, staff are walking, it's amazing,” Evers said.