Did you know that idling cars and buses affect air quality around schools? And kids play outside half as much as their parents did? And exercise improves mental focus? And more positive activity in a neighborhood (like kids walking) decreases the likelihood of negative activity (like vandalism)? Champions of active living from around the Kansas City metro gathered on Wednesday to talk about these connections and more at BikeWalkKC’s biennial Safe Routes to School Summit.
Hosted by Shawnee Mission School District’s Center for Academic Achievement, the Summit brought together parents, educators, city leaders, healthcare professionals, and engineers for a morning of collaboration around how to make walking and biking to school safer and more convenient for families. Speakers representing Swope Health, Metropolitan Organization for Countering Sexual Assault, Unified Government of Wyandotte County, KC Healthy Kids, New Stanley Elementary, and BikeWalkKC presented topics ranging from Walking School Buses to creative placemaking and funding strategies.
Jen De Melo of KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit dedicated to bringing balanced and active play to all children, delivered the keynote address. She gave several examples of the innovative ways KaBOOM! has used play to connect neighbors and heal struggling neighborhoods. Jen also reminded us that all of our work, from the planning process to the execution, must be community-driven and community-centered.
It was thrilling to see the passion for family health and happiness in every face in every room. We are confident that schools around the region will continue to grow their Walking School buses and other active transportation efforts, and will will build on the success we have already achieved. For the wellness of our families, our neighborhoods, and our cities, we must.
Many thanks to our sponsors: Shawnee Mission School District, Center for Children’s Healthy Lifestyles and Nutrition, Hallmark Corporate Foundation, and Johnson County Health and Environment. We appreciate their generous support of the Kansas City Regional Safe Routes to School Summit, and their friendship all year ’round.
See more photos on our Flickr page.