They filed into McPherson elementary schools like colonies of ants.
Students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade and their parents met at various locations and weaved through the streets Wednesday for International Walk to School Day. It's the fifth year the district has participated in the effort to promote safe commute and exercise.
On their backpacks and jackets hung bright neon reflectors, given to them by local emergency personnel, representing the McPherson County branch of Safe Kids, a nationwide network working to prevent unintentional childhood injury. The McPherson Police, EMS and Fire Department gave pedestrian safety presentations during the month and also walked with families Wednesday morning.
Roosevelt Elementary School students met at Greer Auditorium at Central Christian College and walked about four blocks, led by Principal Todd Beam.
"It's good anytime we can get parents to participate with their kids in education, be it the physical or the academic side," he said. "It was neat to see the turnout, not only moms and dads, but older and younger siblings as well."
Beam said he saw many families walking on his drive to school prior to the event, and anticipates some might choose to walk more often as a result.
"I think it encourages fitness, good health and safety," said Nancy Young, mother of 7-year-old student Andrew. "Everyone's being a good role model for the students. To have the school support, that is really important."
Shana Henderson walks her three children about six blocks to and from school every day, but Wednesday was a chance to be part of something bigger.
Her fifth-grade son, Daniel, said he got to see new people during the walk.
"It's fun, and they enjoy it," Shana said of her children. "It's good to be involved with the community."
This community was extended into breakfast, where families had the opportunity to sit together over cereal, bananas and milk. This was made possible by a grant from the McPherson County Health Care Foundation.
Second-grader Brock Burgess, who sat with his brother and father during the meal, said he walked a different route to school than normal and noticed more intersections on his journey.
This one-day event was founded in 1997, and by 2011, students and parents from more than 4,000 U.S. schools joined millions of participants worldwide. This year, it includes schools from Wichita, Newton and Independence, as well as Australia, Sweden, Japan and Brazil.
"It's cool the kids know we're all doing this together," Angie McDonald, USD 418 director of instruction, said. "All those people walking together as a community is a really cool thing."