They walked, rolled and biked in, under the colorful balloon archway to celebrate the official launch of the “Boltage” program at Gault Elementary School in Santa Cruz. Pushing scooters and bicycles, students passed a 15 foot steel pole with antennae, solar panel and computer. As the students passed the pole, a loud ‘beep’ sounded and a green light indicated that the Boltage tag on their backpack had just logged a trip digitally. Part technology and part incentive, this new program encourages kids to use active transportation. “Boltage fits in so well with our focus on wellness. We want children to walk and bike to school and this great program is encouraging more and more children to try it,” says Gault principal Molly Parks.
Students are registered online by their parents and issued radio frequency identification (RFID) tags that typically are zip-tied onto backpacks. Every time a student travels to school by bike or foot, they pass the Boltage pole and get their trip counted and automatically uploaded to their account by the RFID reader. When students are at home, they can log on to see how many miles they’ve traveled through the year, calories they’ve burned by using active transportation and greenhouse gases they spared the air by not traveling by car. For every active trip they log, they get closer to winning prizes and exciting experiences – like playing a game of soccer against the Slug’s Women’s soccer team. The grand prize of the year is a new bicycle donated by local bike shop, the Bicycle Trip, to the student that logs the most active trips for the school year.
Parks reports that out of 419 Gault students, 130 have signed up for this innovative program. Since the program was begun in early September, students have logged 898 trips totaling 449 miles and burned 17,960 calories. Considering that Santa Cruz County has some of the highest obesity rates in the state – roughly a third of our youngsters are considered overweight or obese — any extra opportunity to get exercise is welcome. Parks thinks this program will help students get fit and have fun.
“Since transportation accounts for 47% of greenhouse gas emissions in our county and 20-30% of morning traffic is generated by parents driving their children to school, biking and walking to school makes an important contribution to air quality in Santa Cruz,” says Jeanne LePage of the Sustainable Transportation Group of Ecology Action. LePage notes that Ecology Action is administering this program at Gault and is currently soliciting funds to help have more Boltage installations throughout the county soon. For more information, contact LePage at 426-5925 x144 or go to Boltage.org
The Boltage at Gault Elementary School is funded by a Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control grant, Bicycle Trip, and other business and individual donations.