Active Schools,
Active Communities

Promoting a Healthier Lifestyle in
 Cross Plains, Wisconsin

Cross Plains, Wisconsin, is a community of 3,500 residents about 15 miles west of the state capital, Madison. The Black Earth Creek runs through the town, which sits in a valley surrounded by natural bluffs. 

But the town is not as quaint as it used to be. Since many Cross Plains residents and those living further west commute to Madison for work, the two major highways that bisect the town get very busy in the morning - at the same time that kids need to get to school. 

The LIFE Foundation (Lifestyle Initiatives for Fitness Empowerment) was established to support and promote a healthy active lifestyle in the Village of Cross Plains and its surrounding areas, to improve nutrition and to combat obesity. This includes encouraging kids to walk or bike to school. Watch this video to learn more about the organization's goals. 
Cross Plains has three schools: 
an elementary school with 360 students...
...a middle school with 630 students...
...and a private catholic school with 135 students.
Photos by Silke Schmidt

The three schools are represented by the red pins in the map below. The yellow houses indicate neighborhoods of children who attend St. Francis Xavier (David and Natalie) and Glacier Creek Middle School (Kaden).

David Benson is a 10-year-old fourth-grader at St. Francis Xavier School. His sister Natalie (7) is in first grade. Both kids enjoy riding their bikes. Watch this video to hear how the Benson family feels about biking in Cross Plains.
Here's a look at how students at Glacier Creek Middle School travel to and from school:
One of the students at Glacier Creek is Kaden, a sixth-grader. Watch this video to learn about his obstacles on the route to school.

Infrastructure changes, such as adding sidewalks, crosswalks and bike lanes, would make it much safer for these Cross Plains children to walk or bike to school. Implementing these changes throughout Wisconsin would also decrease pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities that occur in traffic accidents.

But infrastructure changes are expensive. As a short-term solution that is much more affordable, adults can chaperone groups of kids who walk or bike to school together. These walking school bus or bike train models have been successfully implemented in many American cities, with support from the federal Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program.

This video shows what walking school buses and bike trains look like in Portland, Oregon:

Crossing guards are another way to improve the safety of schoolchildren. They are available at many elementary schools in Madison, but only at one of the three schools in Cross Plains.

The Safe Routes to School program continues to help communities around the country with both infrastructure changes and volunteer chaperoning models so that today's children can safely walk or bike to school - and the LIFE Foundation works toward that same goal in Cross Plains, Wisconsin. 

Creative Commons header image by JeweledLion:

LSFCreativeTeam: Lisa Speckhard, Silke Schmidt, Fiona Beamish-Crouthamel