Winter Walks

February 10th, 2022

An adult and three kids in winter looking up at a large bird in the distance.

During A family walking to school along the Trent-Severn Waterway spots a large bird in a nearby tree. Is it a hawk, an eagle, an owl? These aerial predators are common sights at this time of year and can make for exciting wildlife sightings on a winter walk to school.

By Jaime Akiyama, Coordinator of Active School Travel Peterborough with GreenUP

Active School Travel Peterborough has always promoted walking and wheeling as some of the most beneficial school travel options for the health and safety of students, communities, and the environment. These benefits are even more precious during the winter.

Many recognize the benefits to including active transportation for the trip to and from school but think that it will not work with their schedule. While dropping your kids off at school on the way to work may seem like the most convenient option, you may actually find that including active transportation in your routine can have positive impacts on your whole family.

Especially during the winter, it has been necessary to go for quick conveniences. But slowing down is sometimes important. Active School Travel Peterborough has put together a list of five reasons why making a winter walk to school when you can is worth considering.

1. Enjoy the Benefits of Physical Activity

Regardless of age, self-care is crucial for us all and being active regularly is a key component of self-care.

“Physical activity needs to be part of your self-care routine,” as the folks at ParticipACTION point out.

three kids walking down the sidewalk of a busy street.

Being outside together, moving our bodies together, smiling, interacting with each other and our neighbourhoods – all these things can put a smile on our faces and deliver many benefits. In any season, a walkable community – according to Canada Walks – has great walking and wheeling experiences, safety, accessibility, connections, comfort, destinations, and encouragement for active transportation of all kinds.

“You don’t have to be a gym rat to reap the benefits, as research consistently highlights that even small bouts of daily physical activity (in five to 10 minute intervals) can have immediate positive impacts on your mood. No matter your age or fitness level, you can learn to use physical activity as a powerful tool to feel better.”

Children and youth require at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day.  For some, this is difficult to fit into a normal day. A winter walk to and from school, even for short trips, can add much-needed activity and get kids moving.

The World Health Organization says that even a bit of physical activity is good for our mental health and improves overall feelings.

2. Get Outdoors

Children who spend time in nature tend to be happier and healthier, according to 2019 report from the City of Peterborough on child development.

Being outside allows families to easily apply physical distancing measures while enjoying much-needed social interactions.

A kid making off an I Sky Bingo Game outside on a winter day.

Add some fun to your winter walk to school with a little I Spy Bingo Game.

Being active outside keeps you feeling connected to nature and turns the trip to and from school into a chance to relax and reconnect with family, friends, and the world around you.

Educators around the world are encouraging the use of outdoor environments as vibrant extensions of the classroom. These outdoor classes benefit learning, health, and wellness, according to Evergreen, a non-profit dedicated to creating sustainable urban environments.

3. Kick Starts the Brain

Being active can help you feel more energetic, improve your confidence, reduce stress, and even improve your sleep according to Peterborough Public Health.

Teachers have even observed that students who walk or bike to school arrive more alert and ready to learn.

4. Safer School Zones

Anyone who has experienced a slushy, slippery, winter school zone full of personal vehicles during arrival or departure time understands that these conditions are not ideal for safety, stress levels, and the environment of the whole school community.

Clearing cars out of the school zone leaves safe space for the flow of school buses and pedestrians.

Animal tracks and shoe tracks in the snow

Looking for different tracks in fresh snow can be a fun activity for winter walks to school.

Fewer cars near schools means families can feel more confident in the safety of their children entering and exiting the school grounds or navigating the streets on the way to school. Reducing vehicle traffic can also improve the air quality around schools and reduce the time school staff would have to spend directing traffic.

For those who must drive, Park n’ Stride is an excellent option. Park a few blocks outside the school zone and walk the rest of the way to school. Park n’ Stride decreases congestion in the school zone and allows students to get a bit of physical activity.

5. Pre-Plan and Enjoy the Little Things

Even under normal circumstances morning routines and getting to school can be a source of anxiety or friction. We can all benefit from smooth morning routines that can improve our mood, health, and safety.

Pre-planning for active school travel can help everyone enjoy the little things and reduce stress.

Coopers Hawk in a Cedar Tree

Laura Keresztesi (Coordinator at GreenUP) and her kids spotted this coopers hawk on a winter walk to school last week.

If you know the weather tomorrow is going to feature fresh new snow which can make for a nice walk to school for you and your family, then talk with your kids about that plan in advance. Figure out which route to school works best for your family.

Get the kids involved with the planning and preparation. It goes a long way to allow them to have some control over certain aspects of their day.

Active School Travel Peterborough is continuing to work with schools and our community partners on fun and informative active school travel programs. Please look for these programs as we move into spring and summer.

We want all students and families to have a safe, wonderful school year, filled with learning and joy.

For more information on Active School Travel Peterborough programs and resources visit greenup.on.ca/active-school-travel or email jaime.akiyama@greenup.on.ca



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