“Kiddos on the Move” by Ginny McDonald
Trailnet has always been dedicated to getting people moving, and has enjoyed longstanding partnerships with two St. Louis Public Schools, where we work to get kids moving in safe, fun, and active ways.
October marked the annual Fall Walk to School Days at both Froebel Literacy Academy in Dutchtown and Farragut Elementary in north city. These events welcome students, staff, and parents to celebrate the benefits of walking: bringing the community together, getting kids to school on time, and starting their day with physical activity that improves their ability to learn. All who attend are treated to orange juice and snacks, and “footie” tokens to attach to backpacks.
At Farragut, the event also provided a way to display the efforts of a group of students who participated in Trailnet’s Safety Class. The class was one of the offerings of “Farragut University,” a new initiative at the school that allows third through fifth graders to choose Friday afternoon electives. Students in the Trailnet class learned about ways to stay safe as people walking, and also collected data about driving behaviors that put walkers at risk. Using Trailnet’s speed guns, they clocked people driving speeds around the school, and also monitored drivers’ reactions at area stop signs.
Students found that nearly 50% of people driving exceeded the 25 mph speed limit, and that only 25% of people driving came to a full stop at stop signs, most rolling through the stop (nearly 50%), and the remaining people driving not stopping at all. Participants in the class also learned about ways that they can advocate for their community by improving safety for people walking, especially kids walking to school.
The students produced graphs of their data, which Trailnet has sent to elected officials and to the St. Louis Street Department, alerting them to the risks that drivers pose to walkers in the area. Students also outlined specific suggestions that they felt would improve conditions, such as speed bumps, painted crosswalks, and the use of crossing guards and enhanced police patrols.
Walk to School Day also became a way for Safety Class students to spread the word to younger kids about ways that they can be safer as they walk to school. The students’ display cautioned fellow students not to jaywalk, to always look both ways for cars, and to wear bright colors when walking, advice that is especially important at Farragut since many of the students are walking before the sun comes up.
The ultimate goal of the Safety Class is to organize a “Walking School Bus” at Farragut Elementary. Parents who walk their own children to school have signed on to lead bus routes that will “pick up” other kids along their way to school. Our hope is that a sustainable walking bus program will bring members of the community together, and will make the trip to school safer for all of the students. Thanks to the generous support of the Saigh Foundation, Trailnet will offer incentives to bus route leaders who have taken on the responsibility of leading students to school on time.
October also brought the second annual “Bike Week” at Froebel Literacy Academy. Every student in the school got to spend their P.E. class pedaling around the playground, weaving through obstacle courses, and improving handling skills through “slow bike races” and other challenges. Von Smith, Froebel’s Family and Community Specialist, summed up the value of Bike Week: “This gives our students a special experience that many would never have had otherwise. It’s vitally important that parents learn about gems within the community. Trailnet has become an important part of the academic and social growth of our students.” Many of the students summed up their feelings about Bike Week with a straightforward question: “When are you coming back?”
Trailnet thanks Mr. Smith and Robert LaPlante, Farragut’s Family and Community Specialist, for welcoming us to work with their students. Special thanks to Ron Effland of MoDOT for his invaluable help with Bike Week, and to generous support from the Saigh Foundation and Great Rivers Greenway.