Would you let your elementary-aged children walk out the door every weekday morning, and trust that they would get to school? For some parents, the idea is very scary, but to parent Eric Braun, it’s a no-brainer.
“We started letting our two boys walk or bike to school halfway through last year, and now they do every day,” he said. “We now let them go to the park with friends—and without an adult—too. We all did it when we were kids!”
Braun said he and his family are trying to raise the boys “free-range.” When the decision was made last year to let them out on their own the boys didn’t need any coaxing to come out of their cages, he added, but it took he and his spouse a bit more time to be ready. Their third-grader, for example, is still placed firmly in his older brother’s care.
“I always hear ‘Saw your boys walking to school today! They're so cute,’ Braun said.
Minneapolis Public Schools agrees. This Saturday, the district is hosting a workshop at the North Commons Rec Center from 9:45 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. for parents who want to join Braun in sending their kids to school under their own power. In Minneapolis, around 20 percent of students live close enough to their school that they don’t get bus transportation, said Julie Danzl, the head of district’s Healthy Kids, Focused Students program. The district, Danzl said, wants to help these kids be “lean and green” by getting them to walk or bike.
The effort, Danzl said, will hopefully improve students’ academic performance—more physically active kids do better in school, according to research—but it should also reduce traffic congestion around schools as fewer parents pick their students up and drop them off. On top of that, she said, it would ideally result in more involved parents and safer neighborhoods through addressing any safety issues that might threaten the walking and biking students.
The workshop on Saturday, Danzl said, will help parents learn both about safe routes to school, and about how to encourage other families to join them in walking and biking.