Written by Al Stover
Several Wolf Point School District teachers gathered at Northside Elementary School, Oct. 11, to take part in a sidewalk safety workshop presented by Journeys From Home Montana.
Paid for by the Montana Department of Transportation, Journeys From Home Montana is an organization that provides children with the experiences and the knowledge that will allow them to travel safely in their community, under their own power. It is also about training teachers to use Elementary Lessons designed to help their students be more confident walking and riding bikes in traffic.
Instructors Roger DiBrito and Taylor Lonsdale had teachers demonstrate behaviors before crossing the street as if they were walking or riding a bicycle. This behavior included: stopping at the edge of the sidewalk, looking to the left, looking to the right and back to the left, in case they did not see something the first time.
Instructors also had teachers watch videos relating to different scenarios for walking across the street such as what to do if a child encounters visual barriers that could block their view as they cross the street.
DiBrito urged teachers to show proper behavior instead of telling children what to do. He said this will help children remember and model their behavior.
“This is not about advising drivers to be more careful, but rather it is about having children identify their surroundings when they cross the street,” DiBrito said. “It is also about children drawing information from teachers and empowering them with the knowledge of controlling the flow of traffic with their body movements and alertness.”
DiBrito said this program is not something that teachers add to the current curriculum they already teach, but rather it gives them the tools to blend the lessons with what they are doing in the classroom.
One exercise Lonsdale recommended the teachers do was have students get in groups and share with their classmates the different things they find in their neighborhoods. He also said teachers can use digital tools such as Google Earth to help identify their neighborhoods.
Near the end of the workshop, DiBrito and Lonsdale took separate groups around the neighborhood. With one group biking and the other walking, the groups identified characteristics in the sidewalks and some of the difficulties the sidewalks presented to children who were walking in terms of accessibility.
During the walk, Lonsdale suggested the teachers let students choose where to go and have them discuss the characteristics they find in the area. He said this not only keeps safety prominent, but it teaches them leadership.
Teachers received disks and materials to help them implement lessons into their curriculum. In addition to the tools, DiBrito and Lonsdale donated several used bikes to the school for teachers to use in the lessons with the students.
Melissa DeWitt, a fourth-grade teacher at Northside Elementary School, said the lessons would be easy to implement in her classroom. She also said it will help students to be safer and more active.