For most buses, the distance traveled each morning on the way to school is measured in miles. One new bus in Sedgwick stacks up a little differently, though, as its route is marked off in feet — the feet of those students participating in the new "Walking School Bus" initiative.
After seeing similar initiatives popping up around the country, the idea of starting a walking bus program was planted in the mind of Courtney Morse, a Sedgwick resident and physical therapist who all too often sees the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle in his line of work. Those effects are becoming more visible at a younger age, Morse noted, and was part of the spark behind this grassroots campaign.
Knowing that today's youth can spend several hours sitting and in front of screens over the course of the day, Morse said offering the walking bus option was a way to introduce at least a little more activity in kids' lives and promote healthy habits.
"This is the one thing that we could do. Sedgwick is small and it's half a mile from one end of town to the other, so we'll kind of see how it goes," Morse said.
Currently, the fledgling (started a couple of weeks ago) bus program meets at 7:45 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the intersection of Fourth and Harrison streets in Sedgwick before making the 15 to 18-minute trek to school (400 W. Fourth St.).
Starting out, Morse noted there are a few adult volunteers currently helping with the walking bus route and a handful of students who participate each morning, and is something he sees as being advantageous to both.
"It's not benefitting just the kids, it's benefitting the adults, too. That's where we're trying to build this thing up to. Right now, it's just a couple of days a week and we're kind of looking to expand upon that and get some more volunteers and get other people involved," Morse said. "When people are up and moving and active and things like that, everything improves."
Part of the push behind the walking bus idea is also simply to get people to consider an alternative form of transportation. Early on, though, Morse said he realizes getting people to move away from hopping in their cars and simply driving to school will be a hard habit to break.
Whether parents and students walk the full route or join in part way, the initiative is one that can provide a lot of good and Morse stated he hopes that imparts a positive mentality that can have long-reaching health benefits.
"I hope that over the course of time it just opens people up to exercise being a lifetime activity, being a lifetime choice," Morse said.