Mileage Clubs and Contests
Students at Rolling Terrace Elementary School, Montgomery County, MD, were asked to draw a logo for their school SRTS program. This is the final design.
In Marin County, California prizes were awarded for frequent walker/rider contest winners.
Students walking the track in Fayetteville, NC.
Mileage clubs and contests encourage children either to begin walking and bicycling to school or to increase their current amount of physical activity by making it fun and rewarding. Generally children track the amount of miles they walk or bicycle and get a small gift or a chance to win a prize after a certain mileage goal is reached.
Mileage clubs and contests are usually designed in one of three ways:
- on an individual basis where every child logs miles walked or bicycled and has a chance to win;
- as a classroom competition where a classroom’s collective miles are compared against other classes; or
- as a competition among schools.
Winners are rewarded with prizes including medals, certificates or trophies.
These activities are very flexible. Depending on the school, the competition aspect can be emphasized or not, and the rewards can be elaborate or simple. In cases where children cannot walk or bicycle to school, because of distance, safety concerns, or a disability, the school can provide credit for distance walked and bicycled at home, to and from a bus stop, or during the school day on campus.
Mileage clubs and contests usually involve incentives like prizes or small gifts. In order to be most effective, incentives need to be provided in concert with other strategies over a period of time — not just given once (Baranowski, Perry, & Parcel, 2002; Marchetti, Lowrance, Tolbert, & Carmon, 1994; Marchetti, Hall, Hunter, & Stewart, 1992).
Strategy: Mileage clubs or contests
Children are rewarded for walking and bicycling, usually based on reaching certain distances or walking or bicycling a certain number of times.
- Can provide quick reinforcement for walking and bicycling.
- Children like incentives.
- Can include all students.
- Can include walking and bicycling beyond the trip to school.
- Needs a coordinator.
- Requires record-keeping.
- Should be age appropriate and simple in design.
Quick steps to a mileage club or contest:
- Identify coordinator and (if necessary) obtain school's support.
- Decide where children can accrue mileage (on the way to school, at home, on the school campus)
- Create system for logging and tracking mileage or number of times walked / bicycled.
- Decide on incentives.
- Kick off.
- Recognize and reward participation.
- Track participation.
- Make changes as needed.
Putting It Into Practice: Snapshots From Several Communities
There are many ways to design mileage clubs and contests. A few brief examples are provided here. Also see the NHTSA SRTS Toolkit and Marin County Safe Routes to School site for further detail and other ideas.
Collecting Miles in Marin County
Proud students show-off the Golden Sneaker Award at Hall Middle School in Larkspur, California
In Marin County, California, many activities motivate children to walk and bicycle to school. For example, Hall Middle School in Marin County developed the Golden Sneaker Award — a sneaker spray-painted gold and placed on a pedestal. Children keep track of each time they walk or bicycle to school and keep a classroom record. To include children who are unable to walk or bicycle to school, children are allowed to accrue miles on the weekend or during school recess. Each month the class with the most children walking and bicycling the greatest number of times receives the trophy and usually a celebration.
Also in Marin County, children participate in "Frequent Rider Miles." Patterned after GO GERONIMO, an alternative transportation program in the San Geronimo Valley of Marin County, this activity rewards children who come to school walking, bicycling, by carpool, or by bus by awarding points that are accrued and redeemed for prizes. This contest was successful in getting students to walk and bicycle on a regular basis.
Traveling across the land in Toronto
Tracking the miles walked and bicycled across land (and sometimes sea!) is another popular theme that offers added benefits such as promoting physical activity and integrating educational elements, such as geography, into the activity. Individual students, classes or schools track the distances they have walked or bicycled and add the miles together to travel across a map of their state, province, country or even a continent.
Students at Maurice Cody Public School in Toronto, Ontario, Canada created their own Cross Canada Walking Tour. After crossing Canada, they crossed North America and by the end of the 2003 school year they had 'walked' though Central America to the Panama Canal. Several other schools in Canada now use a map and classroom curriculum provided by Green Communities to track their progress and learn as they make their way across the country.
Putting It Into Practice: Frequent Walker/Rider Program
Lincoln Elementary School, Elmhurst, IL
Punch card from the Frequent Walker Program at Lincoln Elementary School, Elmhurst, Illinois
In an effort to increase physical activity and health awareness as well as to reduce traffic congestion, the Lincoln Elementary PTA developed a Frequent Walker/Rider Program in 2003 to encourage children to walk or bicycle to school on a regular basis. Walk to School days are scheduled for the third Tuesday of each month and are published on the school calendar.
On each Walk to School day, parent volunteers and teachers meet children at the four primary school corners to punch students’ Frequent Walker/Rider Punchcards. As incentives for participation, walkers and bicycle riders receive small prizes, and the school holds a year-end event to recognize children who have participated on the majority of the Walk-to-School days.
The Frequent Walker/Rider Program led to an increase in the number of walkers and bicycle riders on the Walk-to-School days as well as on a daily basis. Lincoln Elementary has approximately 500 children who live within a mile and a half of the school, and overall participation in the warmer months was between 90 percent and 95 percent. In colder months, participation falls only slightly (to between 80 percent and 90 percent) on the scheduled days. The activities have become part of the school's culture and Lincoln children look forward to participating each year.
Putting It Into Practice: The IWALK Club
The IWALK Club was initiated in 2004 by Green Communities | Active & Safe Routes to School (ASRTS) in Ontario, Canada, as a strategy to encourage families to walk to school more regularly using the motivation of increasing daily physical activity. The Club makes walking and other forms of active travel fun by using incentives and rewards for students and by introducing in-school activities. The IWALK Club has several goals:
- reduce car trips to the school,
- encourage walking and other active travel,
- reduce pollution and climate change emissions and
- promote healthier lifestyle choices for students and their families.
Schools register for the IWALK Club online and complete a short questionnaire which serves as a baseline for each school. Students are provided with an IWALK Club card and every time they walk to school or participate in a related in-school activity, like a kilometer club or walking club, they receive a stamp in their card. Every tenth stamp is a golden sneaker sticker. Five golden sneaker stickers equal 50 walks, upon which the student receives a certificate of achievement. Schools can add their own incentives, like an extra recess for class achievement or the awarding of a ‘golden shoe award’.
Curriculum-linked classroom activity ideas are provided with the IWALK Club package along with a funky poster map of the world to encourage classes to ‘walk around the world by walking to school or in school’. All classroom resources are linked to the Ontario curriculum and cover several subject areas including science, math, geography, history, art, writing, music, and physical education. The classroom resources cover the issues on the importance of daily physical activity; the impacts of air quality and climate change on human and environmental health; community design, land use planning and transportation; healthy, active bodies for healthy, active minds; and traffic safety and awareness.
Green Communities conducts a follow-up evaluation with each registered school and compares it to the baseline information. Schools that show a measurable difference in participation are entered into a draw for three grand prizes, awarded each year during International Walk to School Week.
Putting It Into Practice: "Go for Gold"
Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom
“Go for Gold” is an informal walking initiative developed to encourage children to walk to school with the added benefits of helping to reduce traffic congestion and pollution and to promote healthier lifestyles.
Children who choose to register for the activity are issued a “passport” that is marked with a sticker for every walk to school. Organizers designated drop-off and parking areas so children who live farther away have the chance to walk at least part of the way. When a student walks to school ten times, he or she receives a colored star, and different colors are awarded for successive milestones, with gold the highest ranking. Incentives are awarded according to the number of stars a student has collected.
“Go for Gold” is simple and inexpensive, and schools participating in the initiative have seen a significant decrease in car use. One school reduced car use from 62 percent in 2000 to 26 percent in 2001 with 80 percent of children participating. The reduction has been maintained at 26 percent through 2003. The “Go for Gold” initiative has been replicated in other school districts in the UK. In 2002, the “Go for Gold” initiative received the International Walk to School Award for its impressive accomplishments.
Putting It Into Practice: "Passport to Health"
Lytchett Matravers Primary School, Dorset, England
Earning passport stamps at Lytchett Matravers Primary School in Dorset, England.
In October 2004, Lytchett Matravers Primary School in Dorset, England, launched a walking incentive initiative called “Passport to Health.” Involving more than 400 children, the initiative was designed to reduce traffic around the school and to improve the health and fitness of children and parents.
As part of the initiative, children are given a “passport” that is stamped each time they walk to and from school. The number of stamps received depends on the distance walked. The school produced a map of the local area on which every road was color-coded into zones, so that children who come to school by car can be dropped off within a specific zone and still earn stamps for their passports. The school has also marked out a “walking route” around the playground, so children traveling to school by bus can participate by walking measured distances within the playground at certain times of the day. Children exchange the earned passport stamps for small prizes.
Since the initiative’s introduction, organizers have measured an 18 percent reduction in motor vehicle use around the school, as well as a 16 percent increase in walking and bicycling rates. Children and a group of staff members are now responsible for managing the initiative on a daily basis. Lytchett Matravers is working with other schools in the area that want to develop similar passport schemes.