By Dariel Bateman

Meet Samantha (“Sam”) McGuinness, Stratford’s School Travel Planning Facilitator, which is a new position funded through the Ministry of Education and Green Communities Canada. At first glance, just what does her role have to do with climate change?  Quite a lot as it turns out.

School Travel Planning is a provincial initiative to promote walking and wheeling to school and reduce car congestion in order to create safer school zones, healthier kids, and cleaner air. Working with elementary schools in Stratford, the goal is to engage kids, parents, and the school community to address barriers to active travel and formulate potential solutions to make walking and wheeling more accessible.

As the facilitator, Sam oversees a regional committee dedicated to School Travel Planning, involving members from Avon Maitland District School Board, Huron Perth Catholic District School Board, Stratford Police, Cycle Stratford, Huron Perth Student Transportation Services, and Huron Perth Public Health.

She also supports committees at the school level, working with them to develop school-specific plans to increase rates of walking and wheeling and seek solutions to barriers.

Sam McGuinness, Stratford's School Travel Planning Facilitator

As part of this support to schools, Sam developed a resource guide that is available on the City website. The purpose of the guide is to help schools continue with school travel planning and ensure the positive outcomes of this year’s investment by providing them with the resources and materials that are currently being used.

Screen shot from the School Travel Planning: Resource Guide that can be found on the City of Stratford Website

Over the last few months, Sam has been collecting data from students and parents on their travel habits to and from school, as well as identifying the physical barriers to active travel by doing a walk of the school grounds and surrounding area. The barriers include but are not limited to weather, parent perceptions of safety, household morning craziness, illegally parked cars, and a city by-law that doesn’t allow kids to bike on sidewalks. In the months to come, schools will act on the solutions that have been proposed with Sam’s help.

School Travel Plan Launch Event

Sam is quick to point out that SO MUCH depends on parents being willing and able to take time out of their busy mornings to walk and wheel with their kids. All it takes is a little preparation and determination, and what once seemed like a chore will become an enjoyable habit. It is kind of like climate change and reducing greenhouse emissions – it depends on all of us.

Greta Walks

Anne Hathaway families introduce Greta Walks. By walking to school students are helping reduce their carbon footprint and get active at the same time.

Posted by Anne Hathaway Public School on Monday, February 10, 2020

Anne Hathaway families introduce Greta Walks. By walking to school students are helping reduce their carbon footprint and get active at the same time. Video: Anne Hathaway Public School Facebook Page