On Friday, December 7, I was lucky to attend a transportation expo held by students at Volta Elementary in Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood.
The 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students are a part of the after-school program run by Family Focus, a local non-profit. From late October until early December, approximately 45 students explored active transportation issues in their community.
The project fit well with the program's mission to promote the well-being of children and connect families to assets in their communities. The program wrapped up with an event in the school cafeteria where student groups showed their projects on display boards, shared details of their experiences and answered questions for those in attendance.
Students' questions guided the program and research. The students wrote transportation surveys and gave them to community members (including parents, teachers, neighbors, and other students).
They used their math knowledge to compile the survey data, and also performed “field research” by walking around the neighborhood to observe conditions affecting transportation. Students gained insight into issues of active transportation through visits by representatives of both Active Trans and Bikes n Roses, a youth bike program run through the Albany Park Neighborhood Council.
The final transportation expo allowed students to share their findings and insights with the larger community, including parents and other students. One major finding was that most people walk to and from school—one of the many benefits of attending a neighborhood public school. Students were also excited to study and talk about skateboards and scooters—something many of them find interesting but had not previously thought of as a transportation.
A special thank you to all the students and staff who developed and carried out this program. It was great to hear so many students discuss the benefits of active transportation and identify barriers in their community. Programs like these will continue to build the movement of active transportation users and advocates for many years to come.