Students only had to go as far as the school gate to investigate local transport challenges at a Waikato School.
Late last year, a class of Year 6-8 students at Maramarua School looked at the design of the school entrance and carpark, coming up with short and long-term plans for its future.
“We had a few issues with people driving in fast and there was nowhere safe for kids to walk,” says Haidee, one of the students.
Haidee and classmate Mia created a digital presentation of the class’ plans (using Google slides) and talked to the school board of trustees. The class also wrote letters to the NZ Transport Agency about their ideas. The school is located on State Highway 2.
Haidee says the class went out and looked at the carpark layout and observed vehicle and pedestrian movements.
Mia described what they found in her letter to the NZ Transport Agency:
“We want to make it safe for after school when people are crossing the car park. We have identified some of the issues like, unsafe walkways, people parking in unusual places, and driving too fast.”
Haidee says she enjoyed the design process, including working with paper and art supplies to make their plans.
“It’s cool to look at the carpark and then design things. We were thinking of putting in a drop off zone, and separate entrance and exit.”
Redeveloped walkways and a drop-off zone fall into the student’s long term proposal. They also suggested short term measures such as speed bumps at the carpark entrance, and signs such as speed signs, ‘visitor parking’ and ‘don’t even think about parking here’.
Teacher Terry Watton says the investigation was an inquiry topic that crossed curriculum learning areas.
“It was all about an authentic learning process. They’re trying to do something that is going to make the school a safer place to be.”
He said if there was more time, an extension activity would have been to work with police to use a speed camera at the carpark entrance, and use the resulting data in a statistical enquiry.
As it was, students put multiple skills into action: reading about what other schools had done, writing letters, drawing up plans. They collaborated, thought through their ideas and used language and symbols specific to the context of traffic management. It was deep learning that built on each student’s personal experience of a local challenge.
“It was engaging them because it was authentic and practical learning they could relate to,’ says Terry.