By Roxana Chiriac
Niamh Murphy, from Waterford Institute of Technology, Health Behaviour Research Department, Ireland led the keenly anticipated workshop on programmes that have been successful in getting school children active in cities around the world.
The first experienced speaker to tackle the important issue was William Bird, the CEO of Intelligent Health UK, who presented his project, “Beat the Street”. This innovative walking and cycling competition for school children has made the city of Reading in the UK more active than ever, as the children and their parents walked to the moon and back over just 5 weeks. How was that possible? Technology played a big role, with every child having to swipe a chip on Beatboxes placed in strategic points across the town, and fun was the biggest motivator.
From Miami, Florida, Dr. Jane Greenberg presented the US President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition’s “Let’s MOVE”, a Michelle Obama initiative. The project focuses on making physical activity a priority in schools. 200 schools are already involved and for 60 min per day, the children can try a wide variety of activities, such as kayaking, snorkelling, walking tours, swimming and other traditional sports. Greenberg said the project aims to prove that “Active kids are better performers” in schools. A similar program for disabled children has also been implemented, under the slogan “I can do it, you can do it” promotinh 30 minutes of daily physical activity.
Alessandra Marin from the University of Trieste in Italy, presented the PediBUS project, which aims at “regenerating public spaces by making more walkable paths”. PediBUS is in fact “a bus made by children that walk from home to school, accompanied by an adult, on specially marked walking paths”.
A workshop is not complete if there isn’t any input from the participants; therefore, a debate was started around how technology can help in the process of moving children, how the disabled children can be included in the moving scheme but also how to become sustainable with these initiatives.
“If we don’t involve technology, we are losing the children”, stated Jane Greenberg, as we must keep up with them.
William has also introduced the “nudge theory” in relation to keep the children in walking and being active: “The nudge got them to do it for another reason, but it became enjoyable and the reason has shifted”.
A successful workshop gave the participants and the speakers to find solutions and share experiences on how we can activate schools in a sustainable way.