A visit to St. Albans City School (SACS) may just make you want to lace up your sneakers and go for a walk. As soon as you step onto the school’s grounds, the latest addition of a new walking path will call to you to take a lap. The path follows the perimeter of the school grounds and has seen daily use since it was installed. The school has been very proactive in encouraging teachers to bring their kids outside and move more.
Mitch Craib, the Wellness Coordinator at the school says, “The walking path is in the middle of many things that the school is currently doing to promote health.” Every fall and spring, the school has six week long walking contests between the twelve learning communities. The kids are free to walk during recess and often the teachers will give the students extra time throughout the school day. Each week, the Community with the most laps wins the coveted Golden Sneaker Award, which is a sneaker on a pedestal that is painted gold. The Community with the most laps at the end of the Spring contest will win a party at City Pool to celebrate.
Craib spent two years applying for grants to fund the walking path project. It took a total of three grants, the largest being a local grant called Healthy People, Strong Communities, from the Northwest Regional Planning Commission. Craib says, “There were a lot of grants written that went nowhere, but then finally we got this one local one that really helped.”
The path does more than encourage movement. It also highlights the other avenues of health that SACS is pursuing for the students. The path travels through an orchard that the school has been planting, as well as the St. Albans Community Garden. Craib says, “The path is surrounded by a bunch of stewardship, Farm to School, related projects. That is our method for working on the nutrition side of things, because you can’t just have exercise. There has to be better food, better eating habits. By promoting gardening, local foods, healthier foods, we are gradually changing eating habits in our students.”
Craib has also been instrumental in implementing Walk to School Days. When he moved to St. Albans four years ago, he and his wife required his then 10 year old son to walk to school every day. Craib says, “We lived 1/10 of a mile away, so it seemed bizarre to get on the bus. He was a little bit irritated by us.” However, walking to school is no longer an anomaly. There are kids walking and biking to school every day now.
Currently, SACS has a Walk to School Day the first Wednesday of every month. During October and May there are walking Wednesdays every week. It amounts to a total of 16 or 17 days each year. Craib says, “When you think about the actual amount of exercise, it is miniscule, but it does set the tone we are hoping to benefit from. It’s just opening people’s eyes to know that they can walk or bike.” The results are visible by the number of bikes you can find at the SACS bike rack and the number of kids heading home on foot each day. The culture is changing and this is how change happens, step by step.