THE KNOWLEDGE TOOLBOX
How to start a Walking School Bus
By Rathiha Egbert
Are you fed up with chaotic congestion around your child’s school? Do you feel frustrated
when you and your child are forced to dodge traffic and suck in exhaust fumes at the school’s
Then it’s time to park your gas-guzzler and get on board the walking school bus.
A walking school bus consists of two or more children walking with a chaperone. Kids are
either picked up from their homes or gather together at a certain location at an appointed
It’s an example of a community-based sustainable transportation program that teaches
children to value their health, the environment and community. It’s a great way to
combat poor air quality, rising epidemics of obesity among children and overdependence on
vehicles. You also get to work with members of your community and teach your children about
Here’s how to get a walking school bus program started in your area:
- Determine interest
- Make a presentation to school staff and parents council. Ask the principal to send
a letter home to describe the program and survey interest among parents.
- Arrange a meet-and-greet for volunteer-chaperones
- Make a list of all questions and concerns, along with potential solutions. Create
a rotating schedule of chaperones (if there are enough volunteers). Gather everyone's
- Notify your local police division
- Ask police to closely monitor the walking school bus routes and conduct a school
assembly about pedestrian safety rules.
- Do a test walk
- Test the route with the chaperones only. Find out any dangers along the route and
discuss these with police or the school.
- Plan activities
- Find out what's important along your route: the oldest house, the tallest tree, the
best garden, etc. Anything that will make the walk exciting.
- Once a week, ask a community-member to meet with the children along their walk and
talk to them about something interesting.
- Get the children to personalize their walking school bus. For instance, they can
make signs to carry with them as they walk or wear coloured wristbands.
- Plan B
- Decide whether the walking school bus will continue during bad weather. Carpooling
is a good alternative.
- Discuss possible rewards
- Ask the school how they can reward children for participating in the program, such
as an extra recess.
Think about this counterintuitive finding: Most parents want to drive their kids to school
because the roads are unsafe with so many vehicles zooming about.
To get out of this predicament, someone has to make the first step. So start walking!