Learning from a walking bus
Recently, our little cul-de-sac started up a walking bus.
A walking bus is where a group of school-aged children walk to school with an adult or two accompanying them as the “bus driver.”
Our local council pays for the “bus tickets” (laminated punch cards), rain ponchos, hi-vis vests and jackets for the adults, umbrellas, first aid kit, and little keychains that are the rewards for walking to school a set amount of times.
I was skeptical of the benefits of a walking bus at first. Surely the older children would think it was “uncool?” Possibly the parents might think it’s a waste of time. Would anybody show up when it was raining?
But I was pleasantly surprised. Even the two oldest girls in our cul-de-sac like the walking bus. And I think I can tell you why, using the Te Whaariki learning strands.
- Well-being. When we all walk together, we can talk and laugh and share stories. Only one adult has to be with our group, as there’s only 9 children. And yet, the other parents walk with us often, just because it is a good time to share. All of us (adults and children) arrive at school happy. There’s also the health aspect of it – we walk even when it’s pouring with rain. Finally (but I think most importantly to the older children), our path to school goes through an alleyway, past a dairy and past a highschool. I think all the children feel safer as part of the group and with an adult around. Teenagers can be a bit scary to everyone!
- Belonging. We’re part of a group, and we all know each other. We all know the rules of the walking bus, and each one of us (children included) enforce them. The children also keep tabs on who is about to get a new reward keychain. This feeling of belonging has even extended to the adults on the street. We talk and visit each other more.
- Contribution. We take care of each other. The children like to make sure everybody is on the bus, to the extent that they will knock on the doors of the missing, or go to the classrooms of the children who aren’t there. In the cul-de-sac, our Neighbourhood Watch is stronger because it’s not just the adults watching now, the children watch too. They know all the people on our street, and they know which people shouldn’t be there. And they tell us! Plus we all watch out for each other, offering to help out when we see people gardening, doing some DIY, or anything else that may need some neighbourly help.
- Communication. Making sure each of us knows who has netball after school, who’s going home with their Dad instead, who’s sick. Who’s having a hard day/week. Who’s going on vacation and needs us to keep an eye on their property. Who is making a presentation at school today! Who got the taonga* for doing something special at school today. Celebrations and Sadness. Funny stories. Also, learning how families are different through our stories. There are 3 families not from New Zealand, one Tangata Whenua family, one family that moved to Australia and then came back, one family from a single parent home, two families that have extended family living with them. We learn from each others similarities and differences.
- Exploration. We gain confidence from walking together. We jump in puddles and notice differences in the trees, plants and flowers as we walk. We look for Monarch chrysalis and monitor their changes as we go by every day, and once we even got to stop and watch a butterfly hatch. We find sticks, and interesting rubbish. Sometimes we find interesting graffiti and talk about why it’s there. Even our walk to school is an opportunity for learning.
Our walking bus has brought our little neighbourhood closer together, and brought positive changes in our outlook towards each other and our environment. Our children have gained confidence, and all of us have gained friends. We’ve all learned something.
My skepticism is all gone. Clearly even the bigger kids saw something that I originally didn’t!