TravelSmart is a TransLink initiative that we’ve blogged about before. We asked our colleague, Michelle Candido, to give us an update on what they’ve been up to lately. It so happened that they had just finished an interesting initiative at a local school. Well, I’ll let Michelle tell you all about it.
On Wednesday January 17,TravelSmart Highland Elementary leaders braved outdoor below freezing temperatures to prepare for a school wide hot chocolate giveaway celebrating TravelSmart awareness. By the first morning bell, over 350 students had received a delicious hot chocolate to celebrate collective efforts to walk, cycle, take transit and carpool to school. Remarkably, during the event hardly any cars entered the drop off zone. That’s because mostly students walked or cycled to school and those students who carpooled or were driven to school were dropped off a block away from the school grounds to encourage walking and less school parking lot traffic. Adding to the impressive sustainability efforts, rather than throwing away 350 paper cups, a whopping 98% of students brought their own mugs for their hot chocolates!
The TravelSmart initiative at Highlands Elementary is built on Walk and Wheel Thursdays, which was set up by the Parent Advisory Committee to address a traffic issue in the school parking lot. With a large student body, traffic in the school parking lot before and after school had become cause for concern among parents – especially those of younger children. The Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) encouraged students to set aside Thursday as the day to walk, ride bikes, take transit or carpool to school. Individual classrooms competed for a Golden Sneaker Award for the one that had the greatest number of students taking part.
Back in October 2012, TransLink’s TravelSmart joined the fun, building on that momentum with TravelSmart to School, a series of workshops for grades five, six and seven, which include a presentation on the importance of sustainable transportation and a hands-on digital session to show how TransLink’s online trip-planning tools work. Eleven sixth-grade students then volunteered to lead the program further, encouraging other students and their teachers and parents to use sustainable transportation to get to and from school. In two months, the school’s participation rate rose to 70 per cent.
On Wednesday, January 16, the student leaders made presentation to the entire student body, featuring a video and a game show. They also created posters and announcements with the TravelSmart message throughout the school.
Highlands Elementary is setting a new precedent by engaging students, staff and parents to consider smarter travel choices. The themes learned through the TravelSmart program contribute to a lifetime appreciation for how transportation choices can impact our health and environment. For more information about TravelSmart choices, please visit TravelSmart.ca.