EAST MANATEE -- Riding matching scooters, Donna Kauffman and 9-year-old son, Brody Kauffman, took a new path Wednesday to Braden River Elementary School on International Walk to School Day.
"It was fun," Brody said, as he signed in at a table outside the school to receive a special bag and certification of participation from Florida Safe Route to School.
"It was great exercise first thing in the morning," said
Kauffman, who joked she had to keep switching legs on the scooter to keep up with Brody, who is much more accustomed to riding the foot-powered scooter.
School officials estimate between 400 and 500 students and parents participated in the event, which teaches children rules of the road, safety precautions when walking or biking outside and how walking saves gasoline and promotes health, said Penny Stilson, physical education teacher at Braden River Elementary and event organizer.
"It's good practice," she said.
The event is put on in cooperation with Safe Routes to School, which gave students bags and certificates.
One in every 10 Manatee County students get to and from school by walking or bicycling, according to Safe Routes information. This deprives neighborhoods of the activity and children of opportunities to exercise and build friendships, according to the organization. Safe Routes to School is a federal program designed to make it safer and more convenient for students to walk and bike to school.
Not every student walked or rode the whole way. Some students were dropped off just down the street to finish the walk or ride to school and learn how to properly pass through a crosswalk. Bus riders also took a short walk to participate.
Teachers, parents and officers from the Manatee County Sheriff's Office were on hand to ensure students practiced proper safety measures.
Muta and Ahmed Osman, ages 9 and 8, respectively, rode bikes from about the halfway point between home and school, estimating it took about 15 minutes to finish the ride, although it normally only takes about 10 minutes to ride to school in the car.
"It was very tiring," said Muta, who is in fourth grade. Ahmen, who is in third grade, agreed, but said he liked to look around while on the bike.
Third-grade teacher Heather Dragon and her 5-year-old son, David, who is in kindergarten, participated for the first time. Dragon said it was important for David to learn the rules at a young age. They drove to school in the morning, but took a practice walk after, including the crosswalk.
"We've got to be careful and cautious," she said.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.