Arlington, Virginia: Simple student request leads to popular program


Three years ago Principal Edgar Miranda moved from Rochester, NY to Arlington, VA, and he rented a home in the neighborhood near Ashlawn Elementary School where he would work.

It wasn’t long before a first-grader asked him, “ ‘Can you walk with us to school?’ ” Miranda recalled. “How can you say no?”

He joined students in his neighborhood, and they walked to school together — unofficially.


Principal Edgar Miranda (holding sign on left) and Superintendent Dr. Robert Smith (in glasses) walk to school with Ashlawn Elementary students.Now, Ashlawn Elementary holds organized Walk to School days—once in the fall and again in the spring—and though he owns a home further from the school, Miranda returns to the corner where the walks first began. Students meet at several locations to walk to school on those mornings, and they are accompanied by parents and baby strollers, he said. In addition, Arlington County has many bike paths, so some students bike to school.

“We have the sidewalks, we have the bike paths,” Miranda said. “The folks here have a great blessing in terms of the resources that are available.”

The school has 370 students, and Miranda estimated that more than 100 participate in the Walk to School days, which have been occurring for two years.

In addition to encouraging walking and bicycling to school, the school’s PTA promotes good health by focusing on healthy eating habits and requesting adequate recess during the school day.

The end of each week culminates with Friday Fruit Spirit Day, Miranda said, when students wear Ashlawn Elementary T-shirts and bring fruit for a snack. When this event began, area businesses donated fruit, and now the students have developed the habit of bringing their own.


At the end of May, the school holds a Fun Run. Students gather at the track after school to run a few laps and learn about good health and exercise. FitArlington, a county program with a vision to develop a community where being healthy and fit is a way of life for people of all ages and abilities, donates small trinkets like pedometers and reflectors to participants, Miranda said.

The school’s events not only promote good health and an active lifestyle, Miranda said, but also build community.


Principal Edgar Miranda
Ashlawn Elementary School, Arlington, VA