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Encouraging safe routes to school

Teaching students to walk, bike safely

By Angie Landsverk

A group of Waupaca elementary students learned about walking and biking safety during a walk in their school’s neighborhood.

Emily Verbeten and Lauron Hinch visited Waupaca Learning Center on Thursday, April 21, to talk to some third-grade students about those topics.

Both of them are East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission Safe Routes to School planners.

“Today we’re taking students out on a walk around the school to go through pedestrian safety lessons with them and safer ways to bike when on the road,” Verbeten said.

Mary Feldt, a physical education teacher at the school, and two parents joined them.

Feldt invited the Safe Routes to School planners to do a lesson with some of her students after attending a workshop in February for physical education teachers in the region.

“We’re trying to work with physical education teachers to incorporate biking and pedestrian safety into their curriculum,” Verbeten said.

With May being National Bike Month and Wednesday, May 4, being National Bike to School Day, Feldt said the idea was to look for potential safety issues around the school.

“What is the benefit of walking or biking?” Verbeten asked before they headed from the gym to the outdoors.

She told the students it is good for their health because they get exercise.

In addition, when people choose to walk or bike instead of to drive a vehicle, they do not pollute the air, which is better for the environment, she said.

As the students walked, Verbeten talked to them about biking with traffic and obeying the same rules as motorists.

She reminded students of how when a street does not have a sidewalk, they should walk facing the traffic.

Feldt encourages her students and their families to do more walking and biking.

“The majority of kids who can walk to school get driven,” she said.

On Wednesday, April 20, Walk to School Wednesday began once again as a way to encourage students to walk to school.

Parents drop their children off at the former Riverside Elementary School, where volunteers from Waupaca’s senior center wait to join them on their walk to school.

“We had about 35 kids,” Feldt said of this spring’s first walk. “If parents could walk with their kids, it would be even better. We have grandparents who walk with their kids.”

On May 4, Waupaca Learning Center will participate in National Bike to School Day.

“Any WLC kid who can safely bike to school that day is encouraged to do so,” she said.

On that day, Feldt will meet them at the school’s bike rack, where they may put their name in for raffle prizes, which are being provided by East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.

Those who live in rural parts of the school district may also participate.

“They just have to do a family bike ride sometime before National Bike to School Day,” Feldt said.

The class in the kindergarten through second grade division and the class in the third through fourth-grade division with the best participation will each win a bike blender for the day, also being provided by the planning commission.

The blender hooks on the bikes, and students will make smoothies while biking.

Of the safety lessons the students received, Feldt said, “Hopefully, they will go back and share it or remember it themselves.”

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