No Cars, No Problems for Brookline's Students
Brookline students to mark "International Walk to School Day" with towns own "Car-Free Day" this Wednesday.
For many of Brookline's cars, next Wednesday may as well be a day-off.
With the family auto in the driveway, hundreds of Brookline students plan to walk, bike or rollerblade to school as part of a town-wide "Car-Free School Day."
The one-day event ties Brookline students to the "International Walk to School Day," an annual event that involves more than 3 million children in 21 countries. But Lynne Karsten, Brookline's director of community health, said town officials decided to call it a "Car-Free" school day because some children may choose other means of "green" transportation.
"They can take the bus, bike, rollerblade or take the T," Karsten said. "The goal is just to reduce the carbon footprint by not driving individual cars."
And Karsten said the initiative as much about student health as it is climate change. That health director noted that obesity rates have increased significantly in the past 20 years, and said she she feels that walking to school is an important way to develop healthy living and exercise patterns.
Planning Wednesday's event has been a collaborative effort of the schools' Green Teams, Brookline 2010, Climate Change Action Brookline and the town's Department of Public Health, as well as a number of eager parents and faculty at the local schools.
However, Karsten said faculty, staff and parents have been especially supportive. "The enthusiasm of the parents in the schools has just been terrific," Karsten said. "That's the driving force with a whole lot of support."
Tracie Burns, a Devotion School parent who helps lead the school's Green Team, said she is excited for all the schools to work together in supporting a good cause this Wednesday. Burns herself has two children who attend the school, and they all walk to school together every day.
Burns will be helping out in the morning on Wednesday, stamping a footprint—the logo for the Brookline 2010 Community Climate Challenge—on every child's hand.
The Devotion School organized a similar event last May, urging children to walk to school once a week. Burns said by the end of the month, the number of children who walked to school rose from 66 percent to 88 percent.
"It was wonderful and the kids just loved it," Burns said. "We had two kids who lived far away from the school who decided to walk to school twice a week for the rest of the year."
While it may be small steps like this, Campaign Director of CCAB Mary Dewart said Car Free School Day is all about creating awareness for Brookline's school children one day at a time.
"I think taking small steps in the right direction is an important way for people to make changes," Dewart said. "If they walk to school now and then suddenly a lot of kids are walking to school then we have a chance of the group growing and becoming a regular part of their life."
While a lot of work has been put into this one day, Dewart said it's by no means a one-time event. In fact, the schools are looking for a series of climate-change initiatives, including a program aimed at getting children to reduce the number of catalogs in their homes, a "zero-waste day," and a "climate week" planned for next January.
Karsten said repeating the climate-change message is part of the plan.
"It's kind of like advertising," Karsten said. "You don't talk about it just once. You talk about it many different ways at many different times."