Getting Started Guide

The following nine steps will take your event from an idea to a reality. This guide is intended for event organizers who like having a to-do list so that they know everything is covered. Seasoned event organizers or those who feel comfortable with a more relaxed approach may want to simply skim this information.

Step 1: Form a Team

The most impactful events come from different voices and experiences joining together to achieve a shared goal. The event organizer doesn’t need to have all the answers. Forming a strong, inclusive core community advisory team can make for a lighter workload and more impactful event. Including people with a wide range of lived experiences and knowledge of the event planning process can add tremendous value to the event and create broad community buy-in – different perspectives can help shape the goals of an event, point out problem areas that a single organizer might not be aware of, and foster a spirit of communication and collaboration that can build communities up in a deeply meaningful way. A strong team will help see the plan from start to finish, bring a variety of exciting ideas to the table, and help ensure that all members of the school community are engaged on the day of the event.

When thinking about whom to approach, consider:

Step 2: Envision the Event

Having a theme for the event can help other planning decisions fall into place. What motivates the community? Is there interest in promoting physical activity? Was there a tragedy involving a walker or bicyclist? Is there a way to strengthen the connection between families and the school? Understanding what inspires you, other partners, the school, and broader community should help guide event planning. Think about whether it makes sense to include walking, biking, or both. There are several ways to celebrate walking and bicycling, even for students who don’t live nearby. For example, a Walk or Bike AT School Day event might be right, rather than a Walk or Bike TO School Day event, or a combination of the two that maximizes the ability for all students to participate.

Consider these four examples of events:

Example #1: Walking School Buses on Walk to School Day

Publicize the locations of Walking School Bus stops throughout the neighborhood, and designate Walk Leaders to lead each group starting at a designated time. Teachers and the principal are there to greet the groups once they arrive at school. The principal gives a short speech to the students and parents in an outdoor assembly to explain the benefits of biking and walking, rather than driving to school.

Example #2: Remote Starting Point

A nearby church with a large parking lot is identified as a “Park and Walk” location. Parents arrive at the church at the designated time and park their cars. Buses drop off students there as well. With the help of local safety advocacy groups, the school-bound team forms a parade, walking to school carrying signs and banners with the year’s theme. At school, the mayor or community leader can hold a brief press conference to talk about the need for safe walking and biking routes throughout the town. Keep in mind that a large group walking to school together might require traffic control. The community advisory team should consider different safety groups that could support the event in this way.

Example #3: Bike Train Event

Students and families meet at a nearby location to participate in a bike ride to school. The principal joins them, along with several dignitaries and a local athlete. Prior to the ride, helmets are checked for a proper fit and extra helmets are available for students who don’t have them. The group rides to school where they are greeted by cheering volunteers.

Example #4: Walk AT School Event

The event kicks off in the gymnasium with an assembly. The principal makes a pledge to get fit and challenges the students to do the same by logging all of their walking and biking activities. The principal introduces a contest between classrooms. Each class will log the number of walking and biking trips they make in a month. Students are encouraged to walk (or run) around the track or the playground during recess, and teachers reward good behavior by giving students extra walking time. The winning class receives the Golden Shoe Award.

There are many ways to plan a successful event. Remember that none of these ideas are “required” – they’re just options to get your planning group’s creative juices flowing.

Consider whether you want to incorporate any of the following ideas:

Step 3: Get Buy-in From the School

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.

Principals have busy schedules. Here are some tips for engaging school principals:

Step 4: Register Your Event

Registered events appear on the Who’s Walking or Who’s Biking page. Now is the time to register your event!

Registration is the only way that the event can be tracked at the national level and shows local, state, and national leaders that walking and bicycling to school are valued.

Step 5: Recruit Volunteers

Volunteers can help with event preparation and on the event date itself. You can recruit volunteers in many ways: through PTA meetings, via email or on the listserv of groups who regularly volunteer for student activities. Remember to take advantage of your local school and community newsletters. Also consider those who do not regularly volunteer. Is there another way that you can get their input so they feel welcome at the event?

It helps to be specific about the tasks that require assistance. This allows potential volunteers to envision themselves getting involved based on their own strengths. Some people have great skills designing or translating marketing materials. Others might love the idea of offering stickers to students and families as they arrive at the school.

Specific tasks might include:

Step 6: Finalize Event Plans

This is when you put the pieces together and move from brainstorming to concrete action. Now is the time to follow up on tasks that were delegated in Step 5. For example, a park-and-walk event or a bicycle parade will need pre-determined walking and bicycling routes and may need considerations for traffic control. If you are offering rewards for participants, now is the time to follow up on any ordered materials.

Tips on Finalizing Event Plans

Step 7: Promote the Event

A few weeks before the event, parents, students, and the greater community should all be aware that the event is going to take place. Consider translating the materials into languages used in your community – all children should have the opportunity to share in the fun! Here’s an example of how promotion could be done:

For more information on promoting your event look through the resources in Get Media Attention.

Step 8: Celebrate Walk or Bike to School Day

Best wishes for a great event! A few day-of suggestions from fellow coordinators include:

Step 9: Event Follow-up