Why they stand out
Back in 2013, the Oregon School District wanted to create a healthy school environment to help all students to be “ready to learn” everyday. Using the assessment tool from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, they identified and made changes at all six of their schools - such as “brain breaks” (structured physical activity in classroom learning), active recess, and a physical education curriculum that maximized time spent being active. These and many more healthy changes received such positive feedback from students, families and staff that other community partners began to take notice. A broader coalition joined with the school system, becoming the Oregon Area Wellness Coalition. Together, partners like the Oregon Area Chamber of Commerce, Oregon Area Senior Center, Oregon Public Library, the Village of Oregon, business owners, Oregon Area Fire & EMS and Oregon Police make the ripple effect of the schools’ pioneering commitment more visible each day.
The Oregon Area Wellness Coalition partners offer free activities every month to get community members of all ages out and moving. The ‘Wednesday Walking Program’ gets people walking for 45 minutes along different routes in May through October; fall candlelight hikes introduce people to community parks; and Community Education hosts preschool open gyms for families, community walking and adult Pickleball just to name a few examples. Partners also address active transportation. The wellness coalition organizes a ‘bike train’ to school during the spring, while the Rotary Club of Oregon coordinates bike rodeos to teach students about bike safety and encourage biking to school. The Oregon School District Community Education Director, Amy Miller, notes, “We have added bike racks at 4 of our [school] buildings due to the increased numbers of children biking to school!” Years of collaboration in Oregon’s school and community settings is paying off, and building culture of walking and biking.
The timing is good for these positive changes in Oregon. As a growing community, partners understand the need for policy steps that will ensure a future of safe walking and biking. They work with neighboring Fitchburg, for example, to connect bike paths across community lines and integrate with regional trail systems. Local discussions about future school construction include consideration for walking, biking and affordability. And like many smaller towns in Wisconsin with a highway running through the downtown, partners see the importance of traffic safety. They are researching solutions and talking to other communities about strategies like complete streets designs and traffic calming. All told, the Oregon Area Wellness Coalition is moving Oregon in fun and new directions. Stay tuned to take part and help expand their local efforts!
Approach to Equity
The Village of Oregon is working to reduce barriers to physical activity and active transportation. They are beginning with social factors related to housing and education, recognizing the importance of affordable housing options and social worker family supports connected to schools. The growing community is already planning for 2 to 3 new housing developments in the future, and there are conversations about including affordable housing, walkable schools and connections to existing regional trail infrastructure in those developments.
On an individual level, the Oregon Area Wellness Coalition ensures that their activities are always free and offered at different locations across the community. Similarly, the Community Education Department and local youth sports organizations offer scholarships for kids and families to eliminate barriers for participation.