Author Archives: Laura Kelly

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SIGNS OF CHANGE

By Laura Kelly, Safe Routes to Schools

Spring has sprung and vibrant wildflowers are blooming throughout California. Lush green Marin landscapes evoke inspiration and unrestrained enthusiasm in children. A dwindling rain season creates a timely opportunity for Safe Routes to Schools (SR2S) to actively promote more biking as an opportunity for families to enjoy spring’s scenic masterpieces while in route to school.

This month Safe Routes to Schools has been making use of color to gear children up for National Bike to School Day, which is on May 10, 2017. The SR2S program has been collaborating with elementary school green teams, student leadership groups and Girl Scout troops to encourage green travel by making colorful poster board signs. Kids brainstorm on slogans and then paint together in teams of two and three students. The beautiful posters are later mounted around campus on chain-linked fences and school pathways.

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Poster Art is a lesson in the art of using words and color to inspire action. Safe Routes to Schools brings paints, brushes, a tarp and poster boards to a classroom. It’s a marketing example on how to brainstorm in teams in an effort to create catchy phrases. The end result is 8 – 10 poster board signs that when displayed together have an effective grassroots impact.

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”Kids are inspired by bright colors and love to paint,”  said Jennifer Mazzullo Harrison, the Safe Routes to Schools parent representative at Neil Cummins Elementary School in Corte Madera, California. “The poster art session was ​really ​fun and a marketing lesson for our young leaders of tomorrow.  It was great to see the kids come up with their marketing slogans and realize the benefits of coming to school a green way. They were so enthusiastic about sharing their green ways to school stories.”

Some schools laminate the signs as a way to seal and preserve them for when it does rain. Many elementary schools will be hanging their signs after spring break to help build an active transportation community.

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This year elementary school parent leaders for Safe Routes to Schools will be hosting welcome food tables and distributing yellow bike buttons to students who cycle on May 10th in celebration of National Bike to School Day.  Some green teams will be holding and proudly displaying their poster art signs that they mounted to sticks. Schools also encourage kids to decorate their bikes to help make the day a memorable childhood event in Marin County.

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For more information about poster art, please contact Laura Kelly, Marketing and Outreach Manager at Safe Routes to Schools, at laura@marinbike.org

 

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TRACKING YOUNG GREEN TRIPPERS

by Laura Kelly

Yes, it takes a group of dedicated volunteers to scan.

Yes, it’s a weekly (or monthly) commitment during the school year.

Yes, it’s effective in encouraging active transportation and creating habit.

Several elementary schools in Marin County have been making green travel a weekly habit by using Activ4.me, a web application that tracks green trips by child, classroom, and school.  The tracking system generates real-time statistics including C02 reports and miles traveled. Active4.me captures every trip and can instantly notify a parent by text, email or phone that their student has arrived on campus.

Volunteer school teams using Active4.me conduct weekly (or monthly) scan days at school entrances.  As students arrive on campus, parent volunteers and/or student green teams scan barcodes located on a mini-sneaker that hangs from the child’s backpack.  A student receives a scan if they arrive to school by foot, bike, scooter, skateboard, carpool or bus. Active4.me reports can provide students with immediate feedback on their green trip totals.

Old Mill Elementary School in Mill Valley

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“Showing students their updated trip count and mileage totals encourages a green travel movement at our school” said volunteer parent Renee Shelton. “Students enjoy positive feedback and you can see the sense of accomplishment light up their faces when their barcode tags are scanned.”

Old Mill is also using the “Trip” based virtual badges whereby kids receive blue ribbon, perfect attendance and rain day special awards.

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Hidden Valley Elementary School in San Anselmo, California

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Active4.me helps to get parents out of their cars and moving by foot or bicycle to school with their child. Scanning staging areas are social, fun and build green travel pride. “Please scan me!” says kindergartener Stella Lofrano at Hidden Valley.  Her mother, Lacey Lofrano, says scanning is a “big deal” every week for her 5-year-old daughter. “She wants the scan for her kindergarten class to receive points to possibly win the golden sneaker award.  I believe the active transportation habit that these young students are developing now will carry through to the middle and high school years.”

Parent volunteers for Safe Routes to Schools at Hidden Valley host green trip classroom competitions using the Active4.me database.  A report generates the top producing classrooms for green trips every week. Golden sneaker trophies are presented to classrooms with the highest active transportation totals at the school assembly.

Safe Routes to Schools would like to acknowledge these outstanding elementary school parent volunteers for their dedication in using Active4.me and inspiring green travel at their schools from 2015 to 2017:

Hidden Valley Elementary

Karen Stead Baigrie; Karen Zamarano

Old Mill Elementary

Kim McFerrin; Garin Bougie; Renee Shelton

 Brookside

Laura French; Chad Sigler; Greg Benson; Karla Pavkovic

Wade Thomas Elementary

Joe Loll

The cost for an elementary school to implement Active4.me is $300, not including backpack tags. For more information about implementing Active4.me at your school, please call (530) 402-8250 at Active4.me.

 

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Parents Lead the Way to Campus in Clusters of Walking School Buses

Sun Valley with Gwen as Polar BearWearing sneakers and a smile, parents at Sun Valley Elementary School are making walking to school a culture by creating a sustainable Walking School Bus program.   What is a Walking School Bus?  It’s a group of young children who are led by parents to school.  Two (or more) families qualify as a Walking School Bus.  The student population at Sun Valley Elementary School has grown 25% over the past five years.  Traffic congestion around the school has increased in conjunction with the growing student boom, creating residential driving tension.  According to Marin Safe Routes to Schools, a Walking School Bus is an effective traffic calming strategy.  Walking School Buses are not only ‘safety in numbers,’ but are engaging social groups to help make walking to school a habit. “Sun Valley Elementary is within walking distance for most students,” said Julie Harris, Principal at Sun Valley Elementary School.  “The school is encouraging Walking School Buses as a way to reduce traffic by having kids use their feet to get to school.  Walking to school is also an opportunity to teach young children a life-long lesson to walk places that are not too far from home.”  For families that live more than one mile away, Sun Valley suggests driving part way to school, and then walking the remaining route with a Walking School Bus.  Additionally, walking with others bonds neighborhoods, nurtures student/parent friendships and creates fond memories. “A Walking School Bus lets kids enjoy nature and get fresh air before the start of the school day,” said Jennifer Sellers, a parent at Sun Valley Elementary.  “Walking is a way to calm children before the start of the day, and boost their concentration level in the classroom.  I get to talk with children when leading a Jen SunValley WSB2014Walking School Bus and connect with our school community.  Walking takes an extra 10-15 minutes of planning to leave by foot instead of car, but it’s well worth it.  Walking is a calmer transition for kids and parents to begin any day, and is less stressful than getting stuck in a traffic jam.” Sun Valley is making their Walking School Bus program sustainable by recruiting parent volunteers via SignUp Genius, a communications tool that allows a parent volunteer to sign-up for shifts online.  Sun Valley currently has three Walking School Buses that travel to school every Wednesday, and four more that travel the first Wednesday of every month for a total of seven.   But the program is just starting.  Recruiting parent volunteers to walk every week is the most challenging task in creating a Walking School Bus program, and a master schedule is important to keep the program rolling all year long.  The rule of thumb recommended by Safe Route to Schools is 4-6 students per adult leading a Walking School Bus. For more information on how to start a Walking School Bus in your Marin County neighborhood, please contact Laura Kelly at Safe Routes to Schools Marin at (415) 456-3469 ext 2# or by email at laura@marinbike.org