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Dranesville Students Walk to School

First gathering point: Dranesville Elementary students Mia, Lexi, Rose, Willy, Michael and Jeffrey (up front, right) are ready to take part in International Walk to School Day. They were accompanied by a few parents, and by school Principal Kathryn Manoatl, prepared for the weather with her raincoat, and dressed in red school, Registrar Chris Toye.

First gathering point: Dranesville Elementary students Mia, Lexi, Rose, Willy, Michael and Jeffrey (up front, right) are ready to take part in International Walk to School Day. They were accompanied by a few parents, and by school Principal Kathryn Manoatl, prepared for the weather with her raincoat, and dressed in red school, Registrar Chris Toye. Photo by Andrea Worker

Credit last year’s 5th grade class at Dranesville Elementary for getting the school involved in International Walk to School Day. “The 5th graders and their teachers were Internet searching for healthy activities as part of their science and health classes,” said Principal Kathryn Manoatl, “and they came across this global action campaign. It called for an international day of walking to school. Seemed like a perfect match. The focus was on school kids and what could be easier than walking?”

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Walking to school is nothing new for 9-year-old Susan Rahimyar. "I walk almost all the time. But it's kind of fun with more people around like this," admits Susan.

On Wednesday, Oct. 3, about 200 of the school’s 670 students became part of the day’s 4,154 nationally registered walking events: 52 events were recorded in Fairfax County. Gathering at scheduled points along a couple of designated routes and escorted by school staff, off they marched, undeterred by a bit of fog and drizzle.

Principal Manoatl was ready to set the right example, acting as monitor for the children who met at the starting point of Misty Water Drive and Powells Tavern Place. There was a good turnout at this first stop on Route 1. In this group, 12-year-old Rose was the veteran walker. “I walk most days,” she said with a smile. She certainly looked prepared with her pink rolling bag.

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School counselor Melinda Ryan keeps pace with Sebastian, 11, Paige, and Christian in the back row, and Autumn and Camryn up front. Looks like the parents are bringing up the rear.

Further along the route, school counselor Melinda Ryan had her own posse, including second grader Autumn, who was proud to acknowledge that this was “my first time to participate, but I know I will do it again.” Eleven-year-old Christian and 10-year-old Sebastian are friends and admitted it was fun to walk along together. “Plus,” added Sebastian, “walking helps you get fit and it helps fight pollution.” Christian had to set a pretty smart pace on the walk, in order to get there in time to take up his duties as a lobby patrol attendant.

Students and staff were joined by a number of parents, as well. Moms and dads kept pace, some pushing strollers, some clutching coffee cups, and one or two multi-tasking by walking the family dog at the same time. There were even a few neighbors who just popped out to wave to the passing cavalcade.

The international effort started in Great Britain in 1997. Their annual event has grown to include millions of children in 40 countries. According to their website “iwalktoschool.org,” the organization’s goals are to “encourage physical activity, raise awareness of how walkable a community is, raise concern for the environment, reduce traffic and pollution, and promote sharing time with community leaders, parents, school staff and children.” This week the students and staff at Dranesville Elementary took several steps in the right direction to make those goals a reality in their neighborhood.