School principals are key partners. It is important to get their buy-in before publicizing details and logistics of the event. Principals can be involved in many ways and can really make your event shine. For example, one school principal offered a challenge to get to school using a non-motorized mode every day for the entire school year. One day he arrived by pogo stick! He truly inspired the students to walk and bicycle.
However, the principal doesn’t have to take center stage to play a valuable role. Some other ways that principals have been involved in events include:
- Delivering a motivational speech to participants
- Challenging students to walk and bicycle to school as often as possible
- Leading a walking and/or biking safety assembly
- Offering safety tips during morning announcements in the days leading up to the event
- Encouraging teachers to conduct walking- and biking-related activities in the classroom
- Sending notes home to parents encouraging them to participate in the event
- Leading a walk or bike to school parade
- Leading a walking or biking group to school
- Judging a walking/biking safety poster contest
Principals have very full schedules. Here are some tips for engaging school principals:
- If you don’t already have a relationship with the principal, consider making your first contact with a staff person with whom you do have a relationship or someone who has worked on health promotions before. Examples might include the physical education teacher, school nurse or guidance counselor. PTA presidents or other active parents can also be helpful in getting an introduction to the principal.
- Try to approach the principal well in advance of the date that you want to host the event. The principal may need some convincing about the merits of the idea. When principals feel rushed, they may be less likely to endorse something new.
- Review the benefits of walking and biking to school – particularly studies that show that students who are active do better on standardized tests. Check out talking points and other resources.
- Have an outline and basic plan for your event so that the principal knows that details have been thought out and potential challenges have been considered. Describe plans for safety. Keep in mind that it is important to be flexible and open to new ideas. Principals will have their own concerns, so be ready to compromise, if necessary.
- It may be tough for a principal to help lead or plan an event, but he or she may be available to give a short motivational speech on the day of the event or to give safety tips during the morning announcements. Offer to outline talking points for a principal to present on the day of the event.
- Identify other schools in the school district that have already registered or have registered in the past. To see who has registered for a walking and biking event this year, visit our “Who’s Walking” page. Your principal may want to talk to other principals who have hosted events before.