Active School Travel
Let’s get our children moving more.
In recent years, our regular routines were disrupted, leading many caregivers to drive their children to and from school.
Now is the time to revisit our school-day patterns and plan so that children can walk, bike, or wheel to and from school. This is a free, easy, and effective way to include physical activity into the day.
If active travel to school is not possible, consider walking to and from bus stops. Even a short, 5-minute walk each day can have a positive impact. Every bit of activity adds up and contributes to a healthier lifestyle.
According to the 24 Hour Movement Guidelines, children should be engaging in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily. Currently:
- 41% of 5 to 17-year-olds use active modes of transportation (walking or biking)
- 46% use inactive modes (cars or buses)
- 13% use a combination of both for their school travel
- Fewer than 1 in 5 children and youth met the 24 Hour Movement Guidelines for physical activity, sedentary behaviour (such as screen time), and sleep patterns.
(2022 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth)
Engaging in active school travel offers many benefits for children, parents, and the community as a whole. Key benefits include:
- Physical health
- supports cardiovascular health, muscle strength, and overall fitness
- maintains a healthy weight
- promotes better coordination and balance
- Mental wellness
- releases endorphins, which are natural mood boosters, that can help reduce stress, anxiety, and feelings of depression
- provides a positive start to the day; enhances concentration; improves cognitive function, focus in the classroom, and school performance in children
- Positive environmental impact
- reduces our reliance on motor vehicles, which can decrease greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution
- contributes to a cleaner and healthier environment for all
- Road safety awareness
- allows children to become more familiar with their neighbourhood’s streets and crossings, fostering better road safety awareness and pedestrian skills
- reduces traffic congestion around school premises helping make drop-off and pick-up times safer and more efficient
- Social well-being
- being active with peers or parents provides opportunities for social interaction, promoting a sense of community and belonging
- empowers children to become more independent and responsible for their daily commute, enhancing their self-confidence
- Better sleep
- helps regulate sleep patterns, ensuring children are well rested and more alert during school hours
- Forms healthy habits
- are more likely to develop lifelong habits of regular physical activity, if children encouraged from a young age
- can lower the risk of developing chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers through daily physical activity
Encouraging children to walk, bike, or wheel to school is an excellent initiative that promotes active lifestyles, safety, community walkability, and sustainability. For more information on active school travel, visit Ontario Active School Travel. Here are some resources and strategies to work toward active school travel:
- Walking school buses
- Establish or join a walking school bus, where a group of children walk to school together. This promotes safety in numbers and fosters a sense of community.
- Bike trains
- Build or join a bike train. Similar to walking school buses, bike trains involve groups of students cycling together to school.
- Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs
- Find a SRTS program. SRTSs focus on creating safer walking and biking routes to schools, reducing traffic congestion, and improving pedestrian infrastructure.
- Pedestrian and bicycle education
- Educate children about pedestrian and bicycle safety to learn the rules of the road and proper safety precautions.
- Active commuting challenges
- Organize fun challenges to encourage active commuting, such as walking, biking, or wheeling [KL9] [KL10] to school. Offer incentives and rewards for participants to motivate them.
- School travel plans
- Work with your child’s school to develop a travel plan that promotes walking, biking, or wheeling. This plan can include infrastructure improvements, policies, and educational initiatives.
- Advocate for safe infrastructure
- Advocate for safer sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, bike lanes, and traffic calming measures in your community to make walking, biking, or wheeling to school more appealing and secure.
- Promote public transportation (where available)
- Promote the use of public transportation for longer distances if walking, biking, or wheeling is not feasible. Public transportation is generally more sustainable than private car use.
- Parental involvement
- Encourage parents to actively participate in these initiatives and set an example by walking, biking, or wheeling with their children to school.
- Environmental education
- Educate children about the importance of sustainable transportation choices for reducing pollution and protecting the environment.
- Community events
- Organize community events, such as walking, biking, or wheeling events, to raise awareness and celebrate active and sustainable transportation.
- Online resources
- Look for online resources and apps that can help plan safe and efficient routes to school, including those that consider pedestrian-and cyclist-friendly paths.
By involving the community, parents, schools, and local authorities, you can create a positive impact and encourage more students to embrace these travel modes.
Children and youth with asthma need to be supported where they live, learn and play. The goal of the Creating asthma-friendly environments website is to provide recommendations and resources for organizations to develop asthma friendly and supportive environments for children and youth. Empowering children in a supportive environment helps children develop lifelong skills for controlling their asthma. Your commitment to creating asthma-friendly environment will lead the better and well-being and safety of children and youth in your care. Asthma-friendly school is one that works towards seven essential goals in order to support the entire school community in understanding and managing asthma.
The Asthma Society of Canada seeks to provide ‘evidence-based’, market tested, age appropriate asthma information, education, management tools and support programs for Canadians with asthma. They provide this information directly through telephone, Internet and print, and indirectly through healthcare providers, primary caregivers, teachers, coaches, employers, and community organizations.
Best Start Hubs
Best Start Hubs are free family centres located in schools throughout Greater Sudbury. They offer children and their families a place to meet, to learn and to grow together.
Body image and self-esteem
BodySense is an outreach initiative dedicated to fostering positive body image in female and male athletes. Although, this website targets the sports environment, many of its resources and content is worth taking a look for anyone working with young people!
How we feel about ourselves and our body has a direct effect on how we take care of ourselves, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Caring adults play an important role in helping children grow up happy and healthy. Supporting children to eat well, move well, sleep well and feel well will help foster a healthy self-esteem and body image. Learn some practical tips to help kids Reach for their best!
The effects of bullying go beyond the school yard. The Ontario Ministry of Education prepared a guide for parents of elementary and secondary school students. Bullying: We can all help stop it (Ontario Ministry of Education) and Parents’ Guide to the Ontario Code of Conduct (158 KB) will give information to parents about what to watch for, what is expected in their child’s school, what they can do and where they can go for help.
PREVnet is a national network of leading researchers and organizations working together to stop violence and bullying in Canada. Available are online resources, inc76luding toolkits, posters, research and activities that are designed for children, youth, parents, and teachers. PREVNet’s resource Parenting in a Digital Age is available to support parents as their children become more independent online.
Media Smarts is a Canadian resource that houses one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of digital and media literacy resources. It offers opportunities to approach digital issues for educators and parents in a positive way.
Kids Help Phone is Canada’s only 24/7, national support service. They offer professional counselling, information, referrals, and volunteer-led, text-based support to children and youth on topics such as emotional well-being, violence and bullying, physical health, and friends and family.
Kids are unpredictable, but injuries don’t have to be. We support families through various stages of childhood, including child safety.
The Ministry of Education’s Policy/Program Memorandum (PPM) 158: School Board Policies on Concussions is to provide direction to school boards on the development and implementation of their policy. The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care offers information for parents, educators, students and coaches on concussion prevention, identification, management and treatment.
The Ontario Physical Education Safety Guidelines (OPHEA) represents the minimum standards for risk management practice for school boards. They focus the attention of teachers, intramural supervisors, and coaches on safe practices, in every activity, in order to minimize the element of risk.
Food allergies and Anaphylaxis
AllergyAware.ca offers free online anaphylaxis courses for the community, developed by leaders in health education – Food Allergy Canada (formerly Anaphylaxis Canada), the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, and Leap Learning Technologies. This online resource has been developed to provide school staff anytime, anyplace, at your own pace solution for teachers, administrators and other school personnel.
Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that can be life threatening; it requires immediate response in the event of an emergency and may necessitate avoidance strategies of certain allergens in certain settings. An Act to Protect Anaphylactic Pupils: Sabrina’s Law (Ontario Ministry of Education) came into force on January 1, 2006, and is the first legislation of its kind anywhere in the world. This law ensures all school boards have policies or procedures in place to address anaphylaxis in schools, which includes providing instruction to staff and guidance on the administration of medication.
Food Allergy Canada educates, supports and advocates for the needs of individuals and families living with food allergies and the risk of anaphylaxis. They also support and participate in research related to food allergies and anaphylaxis. They offer information for parents, educators and healthcare professionals.
Head lice can spread easily from child to child, especially in child care settings and at schools.
Everyone has a role to play in designing a healthy campus community. Small actions can have big effects. You have the power to make a difference on your campus.
UnlockFood.ca provides articles, recipes and resources on a wide range of nutrition topics including school health and healthy snacks and lunches (Dietitians of Canada). The website also provides the opportunity to ask nutrition-related questions and receive feedback by phone or email from a Registered Dietitian.
BrightBites is a provincial program developed by Registered Dietitians working in Ontario’s public health units. BrightBites makes improving school nutrition fun, easy and rewarding! Teachers and other school leaders win badges, receive recognition, and watch their school transform — one bite at time. The program aligns with the Ontario Ministry of Education’s Foundations for a Healthy School framework and promotes student well-being. Visit their website for resources and tools and contact the school team for further information about the program.
PPM 150 (Ontario Ministry of Education) is a provincial policy that establishes nutrition standards for food and beverages sold in publicly funded elementary and secondary schools in Ontario. The purpose of the policy is to create a healthier environment for all students in Ontario. All schools must comply with the policy regulations. Visit the Ministry of Education’s website for more information and resources. You might also be interested in Bake it up! (Dietitians of Canada); a resource created to help school communities sell baked goods that fit with the policy’s standards.
The Foundations for a Healthy School (Ontario Ministry of Education) is designed to help contribute to a learning environment that promotes and supports child and student well-being. This resource has been updated to support the integration of healthy schools policies, programs and initiatives into school and school board planning and implementation processes. This resource also includes the following five interconnected areas: curriculum, teaching & learning; school & classroom leadership; student engagement; social & physical environments; and home, school & community partnerships.
Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities: How You Can Make a Difference is an illustrated video developed by Ophea’s Physical Activity Resource Centre (PARC) that is designed to support individuals and communities in working toward healthy schools.
Did you know that injuries are predictable and preventable?
Teenmentalhealth.org is committed to creating and sharing the highest quality mental health information. This includes products and training programs, addressing the needs of youth (12 to 25 years), families, educators, health professionals, policy makers and others. This website is only available in English but does offer resources in French.
Ottawa Public Health’s “have THAT talk” mental health video campaign was created to give parents more information about mental health. The videos aim to give parents the knowledge and resources they need to talk about mental health with their children and youth.
We know that creating trusting, positive relationships with children and building resiliency has a positive impact on their mental health. Learn more about how we can encourage the adults of tomorrow.
Northern Fruit and Vegetable Program (NFVP)
The Northern Fruit and Vegetable Program (NFVP) is a school-based program designed to increase awareness and consumption of fruit and vegetables among elementary school students in northern Ontario. From January to June, participating schools receive weekly deliveries of fruit and vegetables from the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association. Students have the opportunity to enjoy the new fruit and vegetables in school, while learning about the benefits of healthy eating and physical activity for overall health.
The NFVP provides the healthy produce thanks to a partnership between the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association, district school boards and Public Health Sudbury & Districts.
For more information on the NFVP or to obtain a program menu, please contact the School Health Promotion Team.
Parent involvement in schooling
When children start kindergarten, most parents are quite involved with their education. They attend parent-teacher conferences, cheer on their children at school concerts and proudly display their children’s artwork. But far too often, parents begin to distance themselves from their children’s schooling as the kids grow older. The involvement drops dramatically once young people enter middle and high school — in some respects, the most difficult time for young people.
Parents don’t have to go to school every day or even volunteer monthly, but it’s important to know what’s going on with their children’s education. Parent involvement in schooling is an important building block of healthy development — the qualities, experiences and relationships that help young people grow up healthy, caring and responsible.
Browse the parenting section to get suggestions and ideas to help enjoy being a parent and help your child’s growth and development.
According to the ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth (2018) our children still need to move more. A team of experts in paediatric neuroscience and exercise science have stated regular physical activity not only has physical benefits, but it also “improves cognition, brain function, and mental health”. For more detail on how kids+steps+sweat=healthier brains review the ParticipACTION Report Card.
The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth aged 5 to 17 years is led by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP). This resource is research-based and includes valuable information promoting healthy development and encourages children and youth to live an active lifestyle. For optimal health benefits children and youth should obtain a daily balance of sufficient sleep, limited sedentary behaviour, and a range of physical activities in a variety of environments.
Being physically active is beneficial for all age groups. Click the link to find out how much physical activity is needed for individuals throughout the lifespan, including pregnancy, the early years, for children, youth, adults and older adults.
Active transportation is defined as a human-powered way of transportation, such as walking, cycling or skateboarding. Everybody travels every day to live, learn, work and play. Learn more about how you can walk or wheel to school (Ontario Active School Travel) with your kids.
We know that along with ensuring children have enough physical activity in their day, it is also important to limit recreational screen time and sedentary activity, and to get sufficient amounts of quality sleep. Visit our sites for more information on sleep and screen time.
Sex & U (The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada) offers puberty information to youth, parents, teachers and health care professionals.
Road and off-road safety
The Ontario Road Safety Resource was developed for teachers and community leaders who are dedicated to supporting the health and well-being of Ontario’s children and youth who are raising road safety awareness at every level. Each resource provides specific support for each grade level (Grades K-12) including lesson plans and a tool kit. For more information and to access the resource visit www.ontarioroadsafety.ca.
Sex & U (The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada) offers sexual health information to youth, parents, teachers, and health care professionals.
Public Health Sudbury & Districts offers services and information about sexually transmitted infections (STIs), pregnancy, birth control, sexuality and sexual health for men and women.
Substance use and misuse
The Parent Action Pack (Parent Action on Drugs) is meant to give parents and other caregivers a quick, accessible route to the issues involved in guiding their youth to healthier, safer decisions.
Parent Action on Drugs develops and disseminates a range of programs and resources for parents, youth, educators, health promoters and communities. They aim to reduce the harms associated with the use of alcohol and other drugs and increase informed decision-making and build resiliency among youth.
Drugs, including alcohol, are everywhere. Their use and misuse can lead to many unintended social and health consequences.
Living tobacco-free is one of the best things you can do for your health. We provide support and services for quitting, information for youth and young adults, tobacco inspections and enforcement and assistance with developing smoke-free policies.