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Stepping Toward a Greener Tomorrow: Accelerating Change through Active School Travel

kids playing outdoors

Increasing capacity to implement active school travel projects and mobilizing students as climate change stewards and leaders of school-based actions.

Stepping Toward a Greener Tomorrow aims to support school communities across Alberta that wish to travel more actively.

Students, along with other invested school community partners, support the implementation of the School Travel Planning process. They assume roles as leaders of positive change in their schools by supporting evaluation, taking action to improve traffic safety, and encouraging fellow students to travel actively to increase physical activity and improve air quality in their school zones. Students advocate for the safety and health of their school communities by voicing their concerns to administrators, trustees and municipal officials (among many others) in the hopes of creating necessary change.

With the support of Inside Education’s Clean Air Responsible Schools (CARS) program and local air shed organizations, we facilitate air quality testing and monitoring at each school site. We promote professional learning opportunities as recommended by the Alberta Council for Environmental Education to integrate environmental education into curriculum and school culture.

The project uses a Comprehensive School Health framework to:

  • Provide schools with an opportunity to address school travel planning priorities;
  • Support teachers with project-specific curriculum ideas and real-world applications for students, which build capacity for climate literacy;
  • Connect school champions with community and municipal organizations to support action plan implementation;
  • Assess and strengthen existing policies and bylaws pertaining to active school travel;
  • Create safer, healthier school zones with reduced traffic congestion and reduced greenhouse gas emissions; and
  • Improve student health outcomes.

Our project schools have been the recipients of infrastructure changes with improved signage and upgraded crosswalks. They have added secure bicycle and scooter/skateboard storage. They better understand the relationship between vehicle congestion, excessive idling and poor air quality, and see the role that active travel plays in reversing those trends. They have improved pedestrian and cycle safety programs in their schools and increased the numbers of families and students who choose to travel actively. We’ve also witnessed a swelling interest in our Active School Travel program from schools across Alberta and from various community partners that wish to be part of positive changes in their schools and broader communities.

Following our work in Stepping Toward a Greener Tomorrow, we’ve developed a strategy to build municipal capacity to continue that work.

Stepping Toward a Greener Tomorrow: Accelerating Change Through Active School Travel provides the opportunity to train and mentor facilitators across the province to have the knowledge, skills and capacity to scale and sustain school-based projects. Our Active School Travel facilitators are implementing School Travel Planning projects in eight schools in the communities of Spruce Grove, Leduc, Edmonton, Sherwood Park, Airdrie and Calgary, using the successes of the original project as a template.

Further, we propose to build partnerships with municipalities to embed ongoing support for facilitators as part of their municipal travel planning projects.

Targeted AST social media content increases project reach which allows for increased awareness of and engagement in active travel. Vanessa Colden and her kids at #getkidsout have created a library of encouraging and educational soundbites, including Point, Pause, Proceed, CO2 Emissions, and Park and Walk content, that are shared widely by Ever Active Schools, its partners, and school communities via social media platforms.

Active School Travel projects involve the collaboration of multiple school and community partners and provide valuable learning opportunities for Alberta students. Investing in such programs is an investment in Alberta’s future.

“Nellie Carlson School added 10 new bike racks – and we filled every space in the first week! Looks like there is another order of bike racks to come! We work with both our fundraising committee and our Facilities crew to get these racks ordered and in place for the school. Aside from seeing our students help reduce traffic and pollution, it’s great to see them being active role models in their community. It makes me so proud of our students when I see them riding in the community, wearing helmets, stopping at marked crossings, and safely walking their bikes across the road.”

Tara Copeman, former Assistant Principal at Nellie Carlson School

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