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Free Range Kids

location_on Ashgrove, Australia

Want to get kids excited about walking to school?

Free Range Kids is a simple to adopt class-based program to encourage children to walk to school with an emphasis on adventure.

HundrED 2018

Overview

HundrED has selected this innovation to

HundrED 2018

2016

Established

-

Children/users

1

Countries
Updated
November 22nd, 2022
It is fundamentally important for our children's psychological well being and resilience that we remove the bubble wrap and give them some independence. Free Range Kids enables parents to give their children increasing licence to walk on their own to school.
David Engwicht, Director

About the innovation

What is Free Range Kids?

Fewer children are engaging in exercise, as well as taking either public or private transport means to school. We need for a creative solution that considers both the parents anxieties around their children walking to school, as well as a way to encourage a habit of walking through entertaining means.

Free Range Kids is a class-based program that gets children to walk to school as far as they possibly can. They earn a point every time they walk to school and when they reach a predetermined level of points as a class, they receive a reward (which should always cost nothing and encourage activity) such as extra playtime or a planned walk to a nature reserve.

The simplicity of the program is what makes it extremely easy to implement. The instruction manual is one page long and once the programme is established it takes around one minute a day to run and administer as the teacher counts how many students walked to school that day, as the students age they can take over this task.

The students also receive a brochure with a license to negotiate with their parents. There is an open license (you can walk by yourself straight away) and a learning license (a negotiation between you and your parents).  Free Range Kids demonstrates that by facilitating conversation between child and parent they can understand that the benefits of walking to school outway the risks.

The psychological benefits for the child are notable. Research on this pilot demonstrate that by engaging in exercise before school they are more engaged and their behaviour improves. Also, through journaling of their adventures on the way to school this provided them with new stimuli for learning based on these independent experiences as they venture out into the world.

Free Range Kids helps increase a child’s mobility and teaches them to understand and develop their risk taking capacity which is a great step for parents to hand extra responsibility to their child.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability

Innovativeness

Free Range Kids is simple and low cost. It allows every child to participate and make small steps towards healthier lives.

Impact

Children who exercise before class are often able to concentrate more in class. Being 'free range' can have other life long benefits such as self confidence, resilience and encourages development of skills on how to manage risk.

Scalability

Free Range Kids is a low-cost program that can be started by anyone - a teacher, a parents or a headteacher. Once the program is up and running, it essentially runs itself.

Media

Steps

Get started and build consensus
Anyone can start a Free Range Kids program but it's important to gain the support from all members of the school community.

No matter who is starting a Free Range Kids program, it's important to get the whole school community on board to ensure its success. Arrange a meeting with school leaders and teachers to explain how the program works. Resources and extra information can be printed out from the Creative Communities website.

Provide teachers with a Teachers Guide and explain how the program works and how they can participate. Free Range Kids will work if only one class chooses to take part. 

You can also read about the research behind this project in the PDF below!

Consider the details
Decide on rewards and routes.

Gather the group of participating teachers to select a range of rewards for children and to decide when rewards will be given. Some classes have chosen to have children walk for 3 weeks before the first reward so that habits have already started to form. 

The teachers should be aware that negotiating interesting rewards will have a notable improvement for the project. Without this, motivation may not be as high as it could be. Rewards should be cost free and be motivating for children such as a walking adventure, double recess or a movie in class. 

Decide on a range of drop off and pick up areas to allow children who may live too far away from school to take part. You may decide to provide a map of these points to parents. 

Publicize the program
Share the idea with parents and children.

To ensure maximum parental support, provide parents with as much information as possible. Let them know which classes are taking part, what the rewards are and what might be expected from them. There are lots of resources for this on the Creative Communities website. 

Get the children excited about their new adventure by giving a short presentation to explain the rewards and what they need to do. Teachers may choose to negotiate reward levels with the children or to let the vote on their first reward. Ideally, this should be done the week before the program launch to increase engagement and motivation. 

Launch the program
Start earning those rewards!

Each morning, ask the children if they walked to school and mark it on their reward chart. This could be done by a teacher or a student. This shouldn't take more than one or two minutes each day. 

Each Friday, the children can complete a Thank You Adventure sheet with drawings or stories of things they've experienced while walking to school. These can be taken home to show parents and to ensure their continued support. 

Once the children have earned  and enjoyed their reward it's time to select a new reward and start the process again. 

Maintain momentum
Consider how to keep children and families engaged after the initial excitement.

Teachers could build up a series of additional activities based on walking to school such as writing adventure stories based on their experiences or creating art works based on what they see on the way to school. 

Classes could earn extra points if they convince others in the school to join in with Free Range Kids. 

Publicize the program to the wider community by inviting the local press to observe Free Range Kids in action. Perhaps  you could even create a Free Range Kids community? 

Spread of the innovation

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