Category Archives: bike to school

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TRACKING YOUNG GREEN TRIPPERS

by Laura Kelly

Yes, it takes a group of dedicated volunteers to scan.

Yes, it’s a weekly (or monthly) commitment during the school year.

Yes, it’s effective in encouraging active transportation and creating habit.

Several elementary schools in Marin County have been making green travel a weekly habit by using Activ4.me, a web application that tracks green trips by child, classroom, and school.  The tracking system generates real-time statistics including C02 reports and miles traveled. Active4.me captures every trip and can instantly notify a parent by text, email or phone that their student has arrived on campus.

Volunteer school teams using Active4.me conduct weekly (or monthly) scan days at school entrances.  As students arrive on campus, parent volunteers and/or student green teams scan barcodes located on a mini-sneaker that hangs from the child’s backpack.  A student receives a scan if they arrive to school by foot, bike, scooter, skateboard, carpool or bus. Active4.me reports can provide students with immediate feedback on their green trip totals.

Old Mill Elementary School in Mill Valley

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“Showing students their updated trip count and mileage totals encourages a green travel movement at our school” said volunteer parent Renee Shelton. “Students enjoy positive feedback and you can see the sense of accomplishment light up their faces when their barcode tags are scanned.”

Old Mill is also using the “Trip” based virtual badges whereby kids receive blue ribbon, perfect attendance and rain day special awards.

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Hidden Valley Elementary School in San Anselmo, California

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Active4.me helps to get parents out of their cars and moving by foot or bicycle to school with their child. Scanning staging areas are social, fun and build green travel pride. “Please scan me!” says kindergartener Stella Lofrano at Hidden Valley.  Her mother, Lacey Lofrano, says scanning is a “big deal” every week for her 5-year-old daughter. “She wants the scan for her kindergarten class to receive points to possibly win the golden sneaker award.  I believe the active transportation habit that these young students are developing now will carry through to the middle and high school years.”

Parent volunteers for Safe Routes to Schools at Hidden Valley host green trip classroom competitions using the Active4.me database.  A report generates the top producing classrooms for green trips every week. Golden sneaker trophies are presented to classrooms with the highest active transportation totals at the school assembly.

Safe Routes to Schools would like to acknowledge these outstanding elementary school parent volunteers for their dedication in using Active4.me and inspiring green travel at their schools from 2015 to 2017:

Hidden Valley Elementary

Karen Stead Baigrie; Karen Zamarano

Old Mill Elementary

Kim McFerrin; Garin Bougie; Renee Shelton

 Brookside

Laura French; Chad Sigler; Greg Benson; Karla Pavkovic

Wade Thomas Elementary

Joe Loll

The cost for an elementary school to implement Active4.me is $300, not including backpack tags. For more information about implementing Active4.me at your school, please call (530) 402-8250 at Active4.me.

 

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Creating Resilient Sons and Daughters

By: Gwen Froh – parent of a 20 year old son and a 23 year old daughter.

When your child asks for that last glass of water as you’re tucking her into bed, it’s hard to image her being grown and independent one day.  It happens, and for many of us who now have teens and young adults, it’s as though the Millennium Falcon transported our child into another universe at warp speed.  And, there’s no going back.

For those with kids in elementary school, it’s not too late to instill healthy habits that will matter later to your teen.  Here is a glimpse of what an older student and her parents say about the benefits of investing in active transportation at a young age … it pays off far more than one may realize.

When Jenna Neustaetter, Senior at Redwood High School and President of the Environmental Action Club, was asked what had a huge impact on her life, she reflects positively on her upbringing.   “The resiliency that I learn while growing up has given me the confidence in my own ability to carry myself through life.”  Jenna eagerly looks forward to college next year with the self-assurance to be on her own.

Jenna admits it was tough at times because her parents typically didn’t “give-in” to her desires for comfortable alternatives. “My parents didn’t give us a choice about walking or biking to school.  They wanted us to learn responsibility and independence – to become self sufficient.”

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Jenna’s parents, Arnie and Corinna Neustaetter, carried on the tradition of walking and biking to school from their own childhood. Overcoming the obstacles of hills, distance and traffic, they shared the belief that “exposure to outdoor, physical challenges builds a child’s self-esteem and independence,” and reinforced that belief with the daily active commute.

The Neustaetters took action. They formed a neighborhood walking group when Jenna was in Kindergarten and took turns bringing kids to school.  The Neustaetters biked together on weekends, and often put Jenna in the lead to prove she knew how to handle herself.  They were reassured that Marin was generally safe, a bike friendly place with good bike education and infrastructure.  By 4th grade, they let go and put their trust into their child.

Jenna continues to bike to school even though the “rite of passage” of driving typically influences most Juniors and Seniors to drive. Eighty-nine percent (89%) of Marin Seniors drive to school, so Jenna clearly is in the minority.  “Biking to school feels more normal to me than driving. I love starting my day outside – yes Its cold, but it wakes me up and I honestly believe it sets me up for better learning.”  She adds, “I’m never in a bad mood when I arrive to school on my bike,” and attributes increased teen stress to worrying about arriving to school on time to fight for parking spots; it’s not a fun way to start the day.

“I pass parents biking to school with their kids, Jenna says. “We smile at each other as though we share a secret happiness.”

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Daily Pedal to School – A Body And Mind Boost

by Laura Kelly

Imagine biking to elementary school daily with your children.  What?  Who can do that?  Is it possible in today’s busy parenting world?  Why would I?

Chris Brignetti and Sarah Winarske live in San Rafael with their two daughters and have made biking to school every day a family habit.  Ginger is in Kindergarten and Lucia in fourth grade at Vallecito Elementary in Terra Linda.  Every day Ginger and Lucia commute to school by biking a half mile with their parents. “Riding is better than sitting in the back seat of a car,” said Ginger.  “I see wet grass and people’s faces when I am riding my bike.  It feels open and free.”

Biking their route takes a shorter amount of time than driving due to traffic congestion. The family lives close to Terra Linda High School where traffic can be heavy in the early morning.  The decision not to drive was an opportunity for Chris and Sarah to teach their children that a bike is a more relaxing way to travel places and spend great family time.

“Being stuck in school traffic builds stress. Biking releases tension and starts the day in an upbeat way,” said Chris Brignetti. “This is our chance to make a lasting impression with our young children by teaching them the benefits of biking places. Riding releases endorphins, makes you feel good and is an opportunity to help our planet.”

The couple still feels the stress that most families go through trying to get out the door every morning. However, the difference is that pedaling to school nurtures the body and mind of their daughters before the start of the day.  “It’s a body, mind and spirit boost,” said Sarah Winarske.  “The elementary school years will be gone before we know it.  Biking with our young children is a memory that our daughters will fondly remember forever.”

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