Look out for hordes of children on the pathways next week.
They will be participating in Friends of Pathways’ iWalk, iBike, iBus to School Day.
Friends of Pathways is hosting the event to encourage healthy behavior and sustainable transportation. The nonprofit will have tents at Colter Elementary, Jackson Elementary, Jackson Hole Middle School and Summit High School on Wednesday, and at Wilson Elementary on Thursday. Friends of Pathways representatives will be handing out stickers and bicycle pins, along with fresh fruit provided by Smith’s Food.
“They’re all excited when they get there to grab a piece of fruit and just kind of get a high five to celebrate that they got there under their own power and did something sustainable,” said Amy Golightly, Friends of Pathways communications director. “I think kids are really curious to learn about the different sustainability options, and they really seem to embrace it a lot more than adults, which is exciting.”
This semiannual event has been going on for more than 10 years. Last year, it attracted a total of 1,200 students, with over 800 of them riding bikes. While it is a sustainable way to get kids to school, it can also improve their ability to learn.
Several studies show that kids who exercise in the morning have the ability to concentrate for longer periods than those who don’t.
Exercise “optimizes your mindset to improve alertness, attention and motivation,” according to Dr. John J. Ratey, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of the book “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.”
Andrea Weenig, a mother of five students who ride bikes to school, views biking as a way to teach her children life skills. She and her husband require them to bike to school each day all year long, no matter the weather. It may make them a little late to school sometimes, but she and her husband believe it gives them independence and control.
“My perspective is that they are learning the responsibility to wake up and leave early enough to get there on time,” Weenig said.
Weenig believes the event encourages students who normally don’t bike, walk or take the bus to participate.
“I have definitely seen a huge increase in bikers, but that definitely drops when it gets colder,” Weenig said. “I think it’s great to encourage our kids to do hard things, like biking in more challenging weather.”
Golightly, who will be handing out stickers or helping direct traffic on the day of the event, grew up walking or taking the bus to school, and she now rides her bike to work every day.
“Part of the whole point is sustainable transportation or not everybody’s in a position to have to walk or bike to school,” Golightly said. “So if they can’t do one of those two modes, then we’re encouraging people to ride the bus instead of getting in individual cars contributing to the congestion on the roadways.”