Year 7 students come up with creative messages and technology prototypes after investigating aspects of the science behind vehicle safety.
There’s a buzz of anticipation as small groups of students get out drawings and plans, or pull up animations and videos to talk about.
This Year 7 class at Mission Height Junior College spent a term using road safety for contextualised learning that blends science, health and PE and technology.
Their learning included reflecting on travel in the community, practical skills training, investigation of forces and motion and creative multimedia messaging.
“Incorporating road safety into my teaching was a no-brainer as the kids really engage with relevant topics,” says teacher Catherine Hunter.
“The aim of the learning was to create positive behaviours about looking after your own car or bicycle.”
After discussing aspects of safe road use, students also began to focus on the vehicle being used. Students may then recognise and remind parents, caregivers and whanāu about being aware of danger signs of dangers in vehicle condition.
“The students can also offer some tips for buying cars, looking for safe ones based on the safety ratings.”
Ocean, Christian, Jerusalem and Jonathon explain how they looked at what sort of accidents take place in their suburb of Flat Bush. This led into learning about how vehicle technology such as safety belts and bumpers is designed to manage the impact of crash forces. They bring out a photo of a scale-model vehicle they built to conduct their own crash testing. Several models were made in the class.
Jerusalem: “It’s a trolley and we put stuff on it to make it heavier.”
Christian: “Everyone made bumpers for their cars. Some of the other cars had a long bumper made with two styrofoam cups stuck back to back.”
Jerusalem: “In our tests, the longer the bumper the less damage happens to the driver or passenger…”
Jonathon: “…because when they crash, the bumper crumples.”
Christian: “We found that the bigger the car the more mass it has and the more force it has.”
The boys say their conclusions included the importance of using safety belts and buying cars that have a five star safety rating (see Right Car(external link)– ANCAP safety ratings and results(external link)).
As well, pencil rubbings gave the class a way to examine the design and purpose of tyre tread.
Jason: “The whole class went outside to check car tyres and we used a pencil and did rubbings on paper to show the tread. We learned that if the tyre doesn’t have tread it will have no friction and it will slip. So if you were to design a tyre it’s better to have enough tread.”
Teacher Catherine Hunter says encouraging safe active travel in the school is one of her staff responsibilities, with support through Auckland Transport’s Travelwise programme. This involvement helped Catherine see an opportunity to take on the “harder stuff” of integrating road safety into the curriculum.
“While my specialty is science, this year I had the opportunity to branch out and also teach PE and Life Technology. Teaching several subjects enabled me to embed best practices in road safety across three curriculum areas.”
Catherine decided to play to her strengths by using science as the core learning area. She found relevant curriculum resources online from the NZ Transport Agency education website for both primary and secondary education, and pushed and pulled concepts into her term plan.
“I used the Secondary Science resource (levels 4/5) when referring to forces and crashes. I used several of the links provided and brought the content down to a year 7 level. For example, we did build marble runs to model motion and examine how we were able to change speed through design (such as adding curves, increasing slopes).
“We used the Everyone is a road user resources to help kick off our ideas about road users. Students read shortened articles from the NZ Transport Agency about the current issues
relevant to our local community. The initial readings was a starting point but through our learning, we branched out to forces and ultimately ended up looking at forces (crashes) and how to make our cars safe to prevent this.
“Lastly, I referenced the Level 1-5 Road safety: Science resource when we looked at the design of cars and as we examined forces and visibility.”
The class rework what they learn into various multimedia messages. In this way, having an authentic context lets the students demonstrate science content knowledge by using it in new way.
These tasks also applied skills from English, the arts and digital technologies.
Leo, Ibrahim and Jonathon are using Scratch software to design an animated video.
Creative skills come to the fore as they retell what they know about vehicle safety in a message for others.
Ibrahim: “We’re doing it to promote that people wear seatbelts and check that the car is safe.”
Harjot and Jerusalem settled on making a video clip that reinforces the importance of wearing a cycle helmet.
They started with some quick focus-group research – asking peers what they thought would be an important message.
They studied how NZ Transport Agency road safety ads are constructed to reach a target audience.
They then shot and edited a video with the pithy catch phrase “Wear it or regret it”.
The class design high visibility vests for cyclists after exploring the types of fabrics best suited to the purpose of reflecting light to increase visibility – thus putting science learning into context through a technology design brief.
“The students particularly enjoyed this activity. They were able to use their creativity to update the well-known, orange and yellow vests used by road workers and cyclists,” says Catherine.
Nikisha: “People on their bikes wear jackets when it is raining but sometimes they’re not seen clearly by drivers.”
Jaimee: “In class we’ve been designing these jackets.”
Nikisha: “It’s good because people on the roads and in cars can see you from a distance and they can see you better at night time.”
Esther “I liked learning about what materials are reflective…”
Charlotte “…and how to make sure we use those in lots of patterns to make it nice and bright.”
The class took part in cycle skills training, using an external provider. They learned how to check the safety of a bicycle, and how to fit a helmet properly. They also learned the hand signals used to indicate to other road users. The class took part in a first-aid course so they would know how to respond if they found someone in the community who had a bicycle accident.
Victoria: “I feel there should be more people riding bikes because it’s better for the environment and sometimes it can actually be faster than being in car traffic. Now I ride a bike more often and I can use the hand gestures to indicate what I am going to do.”
Jun, Pritpaal, Justin and JJ explain that they learned about bike rules and safe behaviour from the training days, and now they’re incorporating that into fictional storytelling. They decided that a flip book would be an engaging way to share their ideas with an audience their own age.