Monday, May 13: National WOW Day, the midpoint of Green-Schools National Walk to School Week, will be celebrated in schools across the country today. Walk to School Week is the annual celebration of sustainability on the school run. At a time when climate change has entered the national conversation through student action, children have been showing their desire for clean air and reduced congestion at the school gates through promotion of walking and other sustainable travel modes.

Following the Dáil’s declaration of a climate and biodiversity emergency last week, the act of choosing to consider walking all or part of the way to school is a small but significant act which will help to pave the way for many students to build their awareness of climate mitigation and its impact on their surroundings.

The Green-Schools Travel programme has been working with schools, helping and encouraging the switch to greener travel modes, since 2008. National WOW Day (Walk On Wednesday) is the main event during Walk to School Week and will be a culmination for many schools of months spent auditing routes to school and encouraging students and their parents to consider walking, cycling, scooting or other options like carpooling and park ‘n’ stride in place of their private car.

Green-Schools walkability audits have allowed schools to illustrate to local councils the small, medium and large-scale changes which could be made to the paths and roads around them to make walking to school an option for the many, not the few. The introduction of a zebra crossing; a reduced speed limit; refreshed road markings or a set of traffic lights can often show students, parents and teachers how safely and easily they can get to school by foot.

Green-Schools Travel Manager, Jane Hackett has joined schools celebrating National WOW Day: “We’re living in a country where climate is becoming front page news. For families, there’s no better place to begin their sustainability journey than on the way to school.

“The benefits are enormous and communities in which children can walk to school are happier, healthier ones, with cleaner air and reduced congestion. We hope that by celebrating National Walk to School Week we can remind everyone of these benefits and get children out walking, not just during the month of May but every day!”

National Walk to School Week ends on Friday, May 17. Green-Schools hopes to achieve 20,000 students walking to school on National WOW Day.