The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) lists a number of Ideas for classroom activities that educate about safely walking and biking to school. Visit the NHTSA Safe Routes to School Classroom Activities website to see the complete list of activities. Some of our favorite classroom activities are listed below!
The Melon Drop: A Lesson to Promote Helmet Use
Materials: 2 ripe melons, 2 helmets, clean up supplies!
Looking for a dramatic demo for your next group talk to kids? So was Dr. Hal Fenner of the Snell Foundation. He has tested various melons for dropping to the floor, one in a helmet and the other bare. Hal has concluded that the best melon is a not-too-ripe honeydew. Pumpkins can be better, but finding head-sized ones is difficult.
Take your helmets to the grocery to find the right size honeydew. Shaking the melon tells you which is ripe—you can hear the seeds rattle in ripe honeydew, so avoid the noisy ones. Draw smiley faces, or one smiley and one pffffft face on the melons.
Hold the helmeted and unhelmeted melons out to your sides, one in each hand, and tip your hands toward the audience to drop them in unison. The unhelmeted honeydew will smash. Whee. The helmet on the other melon will last for three drops, and then split on the fourth one, still preventing the melon from smashing. Hal reports that the kids are impressed, and you have their attention right away. (Source)
The Traffic Safety Game Show (Grades 4 and 5)
Materials: Large game set up with props (cars/trucks, people, and squeaky mascot who demonstrates the maneuver in question) or question sheets that can tacked or taped to a wall or bulletin board and the props mentioned above.
This activity is based on the TV game show Jeopardy, with four different categories: Walk this Way, Rules of the Road, Safe Cycling and Celebrity Cyclists. Questions cover safe walking and biking behavior, traffic laws and cyclists who serve as role models.
Objective: To have the class answer questions about safe behavior, laws and rules for walking and bicycling. The object of the game is not which team scores the maximum points but how many students can ultimately answer all the questions correctly! (Source)
How Do We Get from Place to Place
The maps in the Library of Congress’ Transportation and Communication collection document the development of national, state, and local transportation and communication systems. Transportation maps include railways, roads, canals, river systems and even cycling routes. Communication maps illustrate telephone systems, telegraph routes and radio coverage. Studying these maps can help students understand the impact of communication and travel on America’s social and economic development. Also check out The Library of Congress’ Zoom into Maps Presentation.
Alternative Fuels Used in Transportation (Grades 5-8)
Curriculum: Science, Chemistry, Physics, Economics, Marketing, Math, Social Studies
Gasoline is the most commonly used fuel for transportation; however, there are multiple alternative fuels that are making their way to the market. These alternative fuels include propane, natural gas, electric hybrids, hydrogen fuel cells, and bio-diesel. Students will probably have heard of some of these alternative fuels, but they may not understand how and why they are better then ordinary gasoline. The projects included in this lesson are designed to give students the opportunity to create their own investigation and test alternative fuels to discover how they influence transportation. The projects included will fit easily with regular classroom lessons surrounding scientific inquiry and the scientific method.
The activities are: *What is the heat content of two alternative fuels? *What is the economically best choice between purchasing a hybrid or typical gasoline engine automobile? *Determine a Plan for Fleets of Automobiles to Alternative-Fuel Engines *Quantify the relative amount of CO2 given off by the methanol vs. ethanol during the combustion *What goes into building a hydrogen fuel cell car? (Source)
Trip Tally: Discovering Environmental Solutions (Grades 3-6)
As a class, students complete a simple air pollution experiment and discuss what they find. Students discover actions that they already take that help keep our air clean by recording how they get around for one week. They will discover that they can avoid creating air pollution by taking public transportation, carpooling, walking, and other means. At the end of the week the class tabulates, graphs, and analyzes their data. Students finish up by making posters to give a message about how to prevent pollution. (Source)
Vehicle Travel Diary
This family activity is done over the course of a week. Ask your students to keep track of their family’s automobile trips. A trip is measured from one point A to point B. If the children are driven to school on the way to work, the first trip is from home to the school. The second trip is from school to the workplace. If you go shopping on the way home from work, the first trip is from the workplace to where you shop. The second trip is from the shop to your home. Create a chart that allows children to record the date of the trip, the origin, destination and miles for each trip. At the end of the week, count the number of trips that were made. Count the number of miles that were driven. Have a class discussion on alternatives to driving. Can any of these trips be made by transit, walking, biking, or carpooling? The table below is an example of how someone might tally the data collected from a travel diary (Source).
The objective of the Bicycle Safety Rodeo is to teach children the importance of seeing, being seen, and remaining in control at all times when riding a bicycle. This is achieved through a series of bike handling drills and traffic situation simulations. Begin each rodeo with an explanation of what students are expected to demonstrate. Eight different stations give students the opportunity to practice a variety of bike handling skills and procedures for operating a bike safely and legally while in traffic. Each station takes ten minutes when working with groups of about twelve children.
The whole group instruction at the beginning of the rodeo will require a minimum of ten minutes. The children are given a number and instructed to assemble on the black top with the Course Marshal who is holding a sign with their number. The Marshals will ask children to form a row facing the safety courses. Always begin with a Helmet Fit, Bike Fit and ABC Quick Check (bike safety checkup).
Instruct the group to check their helmet fit. It must be snug and level with room for no more than two fingers between the straps and the chin. All Course Marshals will look to see that helmets are properly fitted. If a helmet or a bike is not fitting correctly or a bike is not working properly, the child must see a Course Marshal designated to assist with adjustments.
Have all students stand over their bikes and explain that they must be able to stand over the top tube with both feet on the ground. Model this with a bike.
Explain to the group that this next procedure must be followed every time you ride; it’s as easy to remember as your ABCs and it’s quick as well.
> A is for air, check tire pressure.
> B is for brakes, check your brakes.
> C is for cranks, chain and cassette. Make sure the cranks are not loose, the pedals are attached tightly to the cranks, and the chain is on a ring up front and the cassette in the back.
> Quick is for the quick releases on the wheels and the seat; make sure they are tight.
> Check is for a slow, smooth start to make sure you are shifting properly.