Getting Started Guide

The following eight 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: 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? Are the students strongly motivated by concern for the environment? Understanding what inspires you, other partners, the school and broader community will help decide what your event will be like. Think about the type of event that you want to organize. Will it be a walking event, a biking event, or both?  There are several ways to celebrate walking and bicycling, even if there are students who don’t live nearby. For example, a Walk or Bicycle AT School Day event might be right, rather than a Walk or Bicycle TO School Day event. Generally the most important decision that you need to make at the beginning is whether you’ll be hosting a walk/bike TO school event or a walk/bike AT school event.

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.  Once the groups arrive at school, they are greeted by the principal and teachers who give out toast, jam, and coffee. The principal gives a short speech to the students and parents in an outdoor assembly to explain the environmental 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 law enforcement, the group forms a parade, walking to school carrying signs and banners with this year’s theme. At school the mayor holds a brief press conference to talk about the need for safe walking and biking routes throughout the town.

 Example #3:  Bike Train Event

Students and families are encouraged to meet at a nearby neighborhood park 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 teachers who give them t-shirts and reflective bike safety gear.

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 tons of ways to plan an event. Remember that none of these ideas are “required” – they’re just options to get your creative juices flowing.

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

Find more resources on events in Event Ideas and Downloadable Materials

Step 2: 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 very full schedules. Here are some tips for engaging school principals:

Step 3: Register Your Event

Registered events appear on the Who’s Walking or Who’s Biking page.

Click here to register now!

Registration is the only way that the event can be tracked at the national level. Being able to demonstrate participation is invaluable in showing local, state and national leaders that walking and bicycling to school are valued.

Student cross the street on Walk to School Day.

Step 4: Approach Partners and Recruit Volunteers

Build a team of people. There’s no reason to go it alone and there are likely others who want to rally together to promote walking and bicycling to school. When thinking about whom to approach, consider:

Recruiting 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.  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 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 5: 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 3. For example, a park-and-walk event or a bicycle parade will need pre-determined walking and bicycling routes. If you are offering rewards for participants, now is the time to follow up on any ordered materials.

Tips on Finalizing Event Plans

Step 6: 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. Here’s an example of how promotion could be done:Children walking to school for Walk to School Day.

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

Step 7: Celebrate Walk or Bike to School Day

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

Step 8: Event Follow-up

To streamline planning for the next event you may want to: