The K-9 school received a Communities ChooseWell Healthy Community Grant to purchase bike and scooter racks, as well as locks, headlamps and reflector kits to get students riding to school. Plus, West Haven’s health and wellness lead teacher, Trevor Henderson, worked collaboratively with the City of Leduc and Ever Active Schools to get new infrastructure installed, including two painted crosswalks, improved signage and updated crossing lights, making the entire community safer for active transport. “The changes we made are going to be here long after I’m done teaching.”
By Anna Schmidt, 2023
As a Grade 6 teacher, Trevor Henderson witnessed firsthand how the pandemic affected children and youth. “Coming out of COVID, there were many mental and physical health challenges,” he says.
Trevor is the health and wellness lead teacher at West Haven Public School in Leduc, a city of over 34,000 just south of Edmonton. Trevor and West Haven set out to support students’ recovery from the months of uncertainty and isolation — starting with a new active transport program to get kids actively walking, biking, scootering or rollerblading to school.
“We wanted to offer tools to help people come out of that hibernation. One of our school’s main goals is to increase mental, physical and nutritional wellness,” explains Trevor.
But before West Haven could start encouraging active transport, they needed to make it safe and accessible. The K to 9 school is located in a newer subdivision on the west side of Leduc, and some of the infrastructure wasn’t set up for walkers and bikers. The crosswalk lighting and signage was insufficient, the school parking lot was hectic and storage for bikes and scooters wasn’t enough for a growing student population.
Trevor applied for and received a $5,000 Healthy Community Grant from Communities ChooseWell. West Haven quickly bought bike and scooter racks, and a purple air monitoring system to allow teachers to assess outdoor air quality.
Next, Trevor reached out to the City of Leduc with a short list of infrastructure changes that would make student travel routes safer. The municipality responded quickly, painting two nearby crosswalks, adding motion-censored strobing pedestrian lights and installing clear signage to help with traffic flow and safety.
To get students walking and riding to school, Trevor and the school’s student leadership team partnered with Ever Active Schools to run a “Week of Wheels” event, handing out raffle tickets to anyone who showed up via active transport. At the end of the week, having passed out hundreds of active travel tickets, West Haven hosted an all-school assembly and gave away close to 90 prizes, including bike locks, headlamps and reflector kits — all purchased with funds from the Communities ChooseWell grant.
“The kids’ response was amazing. For some, it was the first time they had ever ridden a bike to school. They were going home and telling their parents, ‘Hey, I need to ride to school today,’ ” says Trevor. “Events like the Week of Wheels helped create excitement, which in turn helps us create habits. Everyone fell in love with riding to school.”
Consequently, West Haven saw a 30 per cent increase in the number of students using active transport to get to school — benefiting students’ physical and mental health. “I’d see an ‘active school bus’ with a group of kids all riding together from one neighbourhood. There’s that social benefit of just being able to talk with somebody. There’s also role modelling happening as well — you have the older kids showing the younger kids where to go and how to travel safely.”
Parents also shared excitement about the program, offering positive feedback on the infrastructure improvements and student incentives. As warmer weather approaches, West Haven is hoping to purchase additional locking scooter racks.
“The infrastructure changes are going to be here long after I’m done teaching. The ultimate goal is to create habits where kids continue to stay active long after they leave school,” says Trevor. “My hope is that when future schools are built, these things can be included right off the bat.”