Recent efforts to boost walking and wheeling to school in Timiskaming District have proven that AST projects can serve a larger social function. At a time when COVID-19 painted the world grey, project staff and volunteers came together to paint brightly coloured sidewalk stencils along key walking routes to several local schools. And the community has greeted the images of animal footprints and hopscotch with open arms, both online and offline, proving the decision to shift focus from school-centric to community-based initiatives struck a chord.
“The Facebook posts on the stencils have received record-breaking attention with more than 1000 engagements,” says Erika Aelterman, AST Facilitator at the Timiskaming Health Unit. “Since some schools are not allowing children to use play structures due to COVID-19, the painted sidewalks encourage active play during the school commute. We have also made the stencils available for loan to other schools and municipalities.”
With funding from the Ontario Active School Travel Fund, Timiskaming Health and its municipal and education partners have also undertaken School Travel Planning at four local schools that includes creation of a guide for school-level champions to assist them with implementation of their action plans.
Erika also reports that a newly formulated Timiskaming AST Charter has been endorsed by the City of Timiskaming Shores, the Town of Kirkland Lake and the Township of Amstrong which will help ensure long-term support.