Look for the silver lining around the clouds that sometime obscure the light on Safe Routes to Schools and you will find Silver Lake Elementary shining through. This school is raising the bar on what it means to encourage their students to bike and walk. It all began with a concerned nurse, Dianne Gorrie, who knew something had to be done to get kids more active. She approached Principal Dunn and PE teacher Cynnara Bivin with the Safe Routes to School program and wonderful things began to happen.
The school ordered dye cut-outs of sneakers and bikes that each student (and even faculty) earns for each day they walk or bike to school. Each shoe or bike represents a distance of ½ a mile. Cynnara developed a weekly “walking and riding log” for students that could not feasibly walk or bike to school in order to ensure that no child is left behind. Each participant writes their name on the cut-out which is later posted by a parent volunteer in a line around the inside of the school.
Bivin has been keeping a spreadsheet to track the participation of each student. After 10 miles have been completed, each person gets a small foot shaped charm. At the end of the year, the top 40 participating students will be invited to a special end of year celebration where a new bike from Grapevine Bike Center will be given away by random drawing.
Principal Dunn has the school virtually walking around the country. “When we first started I thought it would take us all year to walk to NYC but the participation has been so marvelous we are already on our way to the Great Lakes,” Dunn explains. During Thursday morning announcements, Dunn stimulates the student’s imagination by describing the places they are virtually visiting and gives a brief geography lesson on the importance of the area sharing facts like a state’s capitol or local places of interest.
A few weeks into the program, the Grapevine Police and local outreach coordinators Elaine Williams and KC Jones, visited the school to offer those who brought bikes, a few exercises in safety skills. A special assembly with Freestyle Stunt Bike Team entertained the students and encouraged a drug free, healthy lifestyle.
Friday Oct 27, ended Hike & Bike week with the official Bike & Walk to School day in participation with the international movement. Over 100 students and staff participated that day. Way to go! Starting next Spring, the school plans to pick a day each month to promote as bike and walk to school day.
BikeTexas Local Outreach Coordinators KC and Elaine will continue to work with Silver Lake to conduct a helmet drive and bike rodeo. They have already collected data for a traffic audit and contacted the city engineer and requested an official safe routes map be created for the school.