The Union County school system in Liberty, IN, enrolls 1,600 students in its two elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. Although the county is the second smallest in Indiana, staff at Union County’s Health Department think big when it comes to creating safer routes to school for the children.
For the past three years, College Corner Union Elementary (one of the two elementary schools in the county) has participated in International Walk to School Day (IWALK). To excite students for IWALK, the health department created flags made from felt and decorated with paint sticks donated from a local paint store for all the students to carry during the walk. Students helped by making stop signs from neon orange poster board. Each group displayed its stop sign when crossing different small streets in the neighborhood. To help organize the event, the school created a Walking School Bus. Adults leading the Walking School Bus were given cameras to photograph students as they were picked up on their way to school. When students arrived at school, the local high school’s football players and cheerleaders greeted them, and a banner hung over the school’s entrance to welcome and encourage the students. Students also entered a poster contest in which they created designs related to pedestrian safety or clean air. The Liberty Herald, Union County’s local newspaper, covered the event. Local law enforcement directed traffic and assisted students crossing the state highway.
In addition to IWALK, the health department works with local Cub Scout groups to supply bicycle helmets and teach bicycle safety to Scout members. Health department staff also participate in local health fairs and provide bicycle and pedestrian safety material to school-aged children and their parents.
The Walk to School event has been a big success during the past three years, and there is a desire to sustain IWALK activities throughout the year. To achieve this goal, the next step is to conduct a “Walkability Survey” to identify barriers faced when walking in Liberty. Other goals include receiving funds to hire a crossing guard for the school and expanding the Walk to School Day event to other schools in the county. Currently, there are plans to organize a local Safe Kids Chapter in Union County. Case Study Students of all ages participated in the Walk to School Day