Posted by Sam Balto (Contributor) on March 31st, 2020 at 2:30 pm
The coronavirus has changed our lives forever. From here on out, we will think of life before coronavirus, and after. While these are very scary times, we are seeing some positive things appear. With calmer streets and less people driving, there’s been a surge of children and families riding bikes together.
If you’re one of them, it might be a good time to do a practice run to school (if you don’t bike there already).
As a Physical Education teacher at a K-8 school in north Portland I see daily the impacts physical activity — or lack thereof — has on my students’ well-being. In PE class we work to give children the skills they need to be a physically literate person. We are building students’ competence and confidence so they can live a healthy life.
I tell my students that doctors have studied why being physically active is important for children. The closer children are to the 60 minutes of physical activity recommended by the Center for Disease Control, I tell them, the better health outcomes they’ll see. Children who are more active do better in school, get in less trouble, have better relationships with friends, get sick less and live longer lives.
But not every child has PE and recess everyday, or participates in extracurricular sports. So how do you get that 60 minutes of daily physical activity? One of the best ways to help your child get enough physical activity is if they walk or bike to school.
I often ask my elementary and middle schools who are dropped off and picked up by their parents why their parents drive them. They tell me how their parents don’t think it’s safe any other way. I ask my older students: What will you do in high school? Will your parents drive you to work? Or to hang out with your friends or to go on a date? What if they can’t drive you? What will you do then?
No matter what age your child is there are ways to scaffold this skill for them and yourself. Working to help build our childrens’ independence is a skill they will need to learn sooner or later. With our streets much quieter and calmer these days, now is a great time to practice with your child how to walk or bike to school. Being able to practice this skill now will help you and your child build confidence to do this when social distancing ends and school starts.
If you or your children like this new freedom of safe and open streets please share with your city and state leaders. Just because the coronavirus will eventually be tamed and life will go back to normal, our streets don’t have to go back to how they were before.
I would love to hear what parents — and more importantly what students — think about this. Do you think you will bike with them more when you go back to school? Has anyone done a practice bike ride to school yet? Please feel free to reach out if you need help getting started.
— Sam Balto, email@example.com and @CoachBalto on Twitter
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Sam Balto is a northeast Portland resident who teaches physical education at a local public school. In 2019 he was honored with a Weston Award from Oregon Walks for his school-based traffic safety advocacy. Follow him on Twitter at @CoachBalto.