Walking Clubs

Parents and teachers coming together by walking side by side with their children

Photo of Erica Myers-Tattersall FRSA
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Victoria Walks www.victoriawalks.org.au has an incredible program they are rolling out in primary schools across Victoria, Australia. An unintended consequence is that it helps in building better relationships between students, parents and teachers and improving parental interest and engagement in the school community. 

Victoria Walks sets up Walking Clubs at schools, these are held once a week for 10 weeks. Students and their parents are invited to participate along with teachers. Together they go on a walk around their local community.  

In Dandenong, an area of high social and economic disadvantage, large non English speaking communities, new arrivals, refugees - this club has brought together a diverse group of parents who have typically felt excluded from formal education and institutions, often illiterate themselves. So on the surface, the parents and children learn about road safety, find new places in their communities like green spaces, get to know their neighbourhood, meet other parents and participate in healthy exercise. 

At a deeper level, the symbolic act of walking side by side, enables dialogue and conversation to emerge, less formal and less aggressive communication also emerges.  In Anglo cultures direct eye contact can be confronting to those from non-Anglo cultures.  Walking side by side is an activity that allows us to defuse the intense over focus on or hypersensitivity to body language.  "A walk dissipates the anxious energy that is part and parcel of talking about things that matter with people that matter. 

The act of walking together while expressing differing and/or conflicting thoughts, ideas, and positions is a physical representation of differentiation – emotional maturity.  I can hold onto my on ideas about something that is important to me while choosing to walk by your side, to care for you, to head in the same direction (together through life), with the same outcome (headed for home at the end of the walk)."


[Optional] Synthesize a little! In one sentence, describe something you learned from your empathy exercises or analogous research.

Our greatest achievements as children and the symbol of our humanness is learning to walk and talk. It's time we put them to together and bring the classroom to hard to reach parents and students, and by respectfully walk side by side, perhaps even putting ourselves in their shoes for a moment.

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Photo of Clint Heitz

Erica - Your idea was a huge inspiration to grow the ones I proposed for this round. If you'd be willing, I would greatly appreciate your support for Guideposts to Success by heading to the post and leaving a positive evaluation, as well as suggestions to grow the idea even more! Thank you!

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