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Stepping Toward a Greener Tomorrow

kids playing outdoors

Mobilizing students as climate change stewards and leaders of school-based actions to implement school travel.

This project aims to work with schools across Alberta to build and support school communities that wish to travel actively. 

Students are taking on a lot of the work, acting as leaders of positive change in their schools by collecting data, observing traffic, creating education resources for schools to help with traffic safety, and encouraging fellow students to travel actively to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their school zones. Students are advocating 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 having changes made.

With the support of Inside Education’s Clean Air Responsible Schools (CARS) program, we facilitate baseline and follow-up emissions testing at each school site. We help identify school champions who participate in planning and implementation, and 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 provides schools with an opportunity to address school travel planning priorities; aligns with curriculum objectives and supports the achievement of learning outcomes across subject areas; uses a Comprehensive School Health approach; supports teachers with project-specific curriculum ideas and real-world applications for students, which builds capacity for climate literacy; creates safer, healthier school zones with reduced traffic congestion and reduced greenhouse gas emissions; and improves student health outcomes.

Some schools feel like Active School Travel is a mountain that they don’t want to climb, because their first thought is if they sign up for Active School Travel, they will have to face the traffic and congestion issues in their school zone. Active school travel is so much more than that! At most schools, our Active School Travel teams start out small with 1-2 champions, and then grow as more people become interested and engaged. Schools also fear that, once the project reaches completion, our support will end. We continue to work with schools by creating new action plans that schools can easily implement to keep the momentum building, even after the project officially ends.

Our project schools have been part of infrastructure changes, improving signage and student loading zones, increasing climate change literacy, improving pedestrian and cycle safety programs in the schools, and increasing the number 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.

“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 drive into work in the morning and I see our students 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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