We’ve teamed with the PTO to increase buzz and support around our walking events and to increase adult presence along the route.
– Event organizer, New Jersey
Parents make things happen. Parents play at least one, but often many, roles in walking and biking events:
- As someone who allows a child to participate.
- As a participant who walks or bicycles with their child.
- As a volunteer who helps with event preparations and/or activities on the day of the event.
Some parents will be engaged and ready to volunteer. Others may need more information before they allow their children to participate. In both instances, it’s important to keep parents updated about event details and logistics.
Considerations When Engaging and Involving Parents:
- Keep a list of tasks for volunteers so you’ll be ready when someone agrees to help.
- Include contact information for the event organizer on every piece of publicity for your event.
- Reach out to parents as early as possible. Basic communications include sending reminders home a week before the event and the day before the event.
- Consult the parents of children with disabilities and special education professionals to determine accommodations that may be necessary to ensure that children of all abilities can fully participate.
If parents have not participated in walk or bike to school events before, they will likely have questions. Find help answering common questions that parents ask.
I had a great time handing out bagels and coffee to the wonderful parents who walked and biked with their kids. We also had the baseball team mascot. It was great fun.
Parents make great volunteers. Listed below are ways to involve parents in your event.
- Design and distribute fliers for the event
- Lead a walking school bus or bicycle train from a neighborhood
- Participate in a phone tree for last-minute event changes
- Help chaperone students walking and biking from a central location
- Greet walkers and bicyclists when they arrive at school
- Provide refreshments for students and parents who participate in the event
Involving the Parent Teacher Association (PTA)
The PTA is also a great partner for events. Some PTAs are well-organized and serve as a conduit for information between the school administration and parents. Many Walk/Bike to School Day events are led by PTAs. If the PTA is a strong voice in the school, get their buy-in early. Present ideas for the event to the PTA. Ask for support, and listen to any concerns they may have. Listed below are sample tasks the PTA might support:
- Organize coffee for parents
- Serve as walk or bike leaders
- Organize a walk/bike audit if planning a group walking/biking route
- Volunteer to greet students when they arrive at school and distribute safety information, reflective gear and other materials.
- Reach out to members of the media for local coverage
- Reach out to law enforcement for help with traffic safety on the day of the event
- Provide and/or coordinate incentives for student participants
- Publicize the event in their newsletter or listserv