Green commute program at Los Altos school

April 6, 2009 4:40:37 PM PDT
An innovative effort is underway in the South Bay at Almond Elementary to get kids out of cars and back onto bikes, or even walking to school.SIGN-UP: Get breaking news sent to you

Los Altos students are on a mission to kick the car ride habit and revive the traditional methods of getting to school.

"I think it's a good way to help the planet and save gas," said 5th grader Kelsey Conway.

"It's helping the environment so there's less pollution," said 5th grader Addie Feldman.

Almond Elementary School is going green by launching a program called "Freiker," which means "frequent biker." It's designed to get kids moving.

"It's exercise, fun," said 2nd grader Dale Simms.

"They get active. They use kid power to get to school in the mornings, instead of an automobile," said parent Jon Simms, Freiker program organizer.

Simms got Freiker started after learning about this program already operating at almost a dozen schools in three other states. This is the first in California. Frieker began in Colorado in 2004 and has since logged over 150,000 kid-powered miles. So aside from exercise and being environmentally friendly, what else is getting these kids jumping, even giving the little students a lift?

"I just want to get checked," said kindergartner Andy Harrison.

"The person who has the most points gets a prize," said 2nd grader Ben Parker.

Students earn a point a day every time they pass under a Freikometer, which is a solar-powered RFID (Radio Frequency Identification Device) reader A bell rings every time it senses a child's RFID tag, which is usually attached to their helmet or a backpack.

"This is the talk of the school, kids comparing their Freikometer tags," said principal Terri Stromfeld.

Principal Stromfeld says over half the school's students are arriving to campus, checking in at the Friekometer first. During an end of year school party, they'll get to redeem their points for different prizes. It's an incentive that has also seen as an educational bonus.

"Our students are really seeing this as a very positive thing that they are being very active in producing a better world and a greener world," said Stromfeld.

Startup costs to install this solar-powered counter were donated by a local bike shop and cycling group -- a helping green hand they hope catches on at other schools.

"I'd like to see every school in California do this," said Simms.

"It encourages kids to walk and ride their bike to school, exercise, it helps the environment. It's a win for everybody," said parent Jennifer Walker

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