Before the cool kids tired of Pokemon Go I wrote:
It is good to see children out on a summer evening exploring the streets and seeing things the adults around them cannot.I had similar feelings when reading this story on the Guardian website today:
It is drizzling and cold in Salford, but a class of eight- and nine-year-olds from Lewis Street school in Patricroft are buzzing as their teachers lead them down the streets of terraced houses between classes. They stride through a park, dodging an abandoned car seat, to swipe lanyards against three street sensors before returning to lessons.
It’s called “going fobbing” in Salford – walking or cycling to sensors on lampposts all round the city and swiping them to get points. It’s part of a health and community building scheme called Beat The Street ... and it’s taken Lewis Street by storm.In short, Beat the Street is an urban equivalent of geocaching.
The Guardian goes on to quote Rachael Hall, the school’s sports coach:
"I’ve never known anything like it – children are going out walking every evening and weekend. Teaching assistants take the children out at lunchtime three times a week and take whole classes out twice a week. I’ve had parents telling me how happy they are to be spending time with their children going fobbing rather than sitting in front of the TV."And the evidence isn't just anecdotal.
A case study from Public Health England says:
Beat the Street projects deliver meaningful changes in population physical activity levels with more than 200,000 people participating in 2016 so far.
On average, across all Beat the Street projects, the proportion of people meeting the physical activity guidelines increased from 40% to 50%. In 2015, 1 out of every 7 adults said they were inactive at the start of Beat the Street. By the end of Beat the Street, 78% of these people reported that they had become more active. After about 6 months, we estimate that about half of the people who became more active continued to be more active.Beat the Street is welcome, not only because it encourages children and adults to be more active, but also because, as Pokemon Go did, it normalises the idea that children should be out exploring their local community.
As I once argued in a published essay - The Problem with Children Today - child obesity and their lack of freedom to roam are linked problems. Beat the Street tackles both.