Montana State University

MSU student athletes to volunteer with Oct. 7 Walk to School Day

October 6, 2009 -- MSU News Service

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Tel: (406) 994-4571
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Montana State University student athletes and hundreds of school children in Bozeman are expected to join kids around the world to participate in International Walk to School Day, set for Wednesday, Oct. 7.

Walk to School events aim to create safer routes for people who walk and bicycle. They also emphasize the importance of issues such as increasing physical activity among children, pedestrian safety, traffic congestion, concern for the environment and building connections between families, schools and the broader community.

The Oct. 7 event will take on unique characteristics at several schools. Morning Star Elementary students are encouraged to walk dressed in fruit and vegetable costumes. Hawthorne Elementary will have a walking school bus that will start at the Bozeman Public Library and a bike train starting in the northeast neighborhood. In addition, Hawthorne's "Green Team" will distribute healthy snacks and water while the kids dance to music on the playground before school. Chalk arrows will be sprayed on the walk and bike paths leading the way to school. Hyalite Elementary School is planning to have MSU student athletes lead a walking school bus from Valley Unit Park and then lead the kids in a short exercise routine before school.

"Thirty to 40 years ago, most students who lived near a school walked or rode their bikes year-round," said Cathy Costakis, physical activity coordinator with the MSU-based Montana Nutrition and Physical Activity Program. "Today, most kids are driven to school or take a bus. As families began driving children to school, traffic congestion and safety issues became more problematic in school zones and children missed out on a natural way to get a daily dose of outdoor activity."

Costakis said distance and traffic issues are frequently cited in national surveys as barriers to walking and bicycling to school, and Bozeman School District #7, the City of Bozeman, and the Bozeman Safe Routes to School task force are working to ensure the safety of children traveling to and from school.

A Safe Routes to School program in Bozeman has received funding from the City of Bozeman, the Montana Department of Transportation and various other sources. Walking audits have been completed at each elementary and middle school. Parents are encouraged to share their thoughts about walking and biking to school through a survey available on the Bozeman School District #7 Web site at www.bsd7.org.

Organizers estimate that more than 6,500 schools in the United States will participate in International Walk to School Day this year.

For more information, visit www.montananapa.org or contact Cathy Costakis at 994-5734 or 581-8650.

Cathy Costakis, (406) 994-5734 or (406) 581-8650 or costakis@montana.edu