Students at Takoma Park Elementary School in Montgomery County, Maryland had a special surprise a few weeks ago. Their gym was turned into a street with a crosswalk and first graders became pedestrians, stop signs, cars and pedestrian crosswalk signs. As Lucy Neher, City of Takoma Park Safe Routes to School coordinator so elegantly sang, the kids learned to “walk in the middle of the crosswalk” (clap, clap).
Takoma Park Elementary School is in the middle of the neighborhood, the ideal location for kids to walk and bicycle to school. As we know, when kids walk or bicycle to school, they arrive at school ready to learn and focus and gain physical activity important for health. Plus, with the reduced car traffic, air quality is better around schools and stress is alleviated for all by avoiding congested drop-off and pick-up lines.
This is why it is so important that Lucy spent a week with students teaching them to safely and properly cross the street. Not only is Takoma Park Elementary School ideally situated for walking and bicycling but the community is as well. With parks, a commercial district, Metro station and sidewalks, the crosswalk exercise is a life lesson for kids. Kids are now better and safer members of their community because they know the rules of the road. They can educate their families and as they grow up, can confidently navigate their neighborhood and adopt an active living lifestyle.
Who knew so much could come from a crosswalk exercise? The kids thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Lucy first brought them together as a class to talk about the basics. When approaching a crosswalk, stop at the curb. Look left, then right and left again. Listen to crossing guards. Do not chase your ball out into the street, get an adult. And then the all-important jingle, that stuck in everyone’s head (including mine) “walk in the middle of the crosswalk” followed by two claps.
Kids then simulated the real world experience by picking up cars and street signs to become the street. Kids practiced approaching the street, looking left, right, and left again and crossing in the middle of the crosswalk. The kids were thrilled as pedestrians to careful follow all of their instructions. Cars raced around the street but halted as soon as they saw the pedestrians. I look forward to seeing the kids around Takoma Park safely navigate their neighborhood. In the meantime, I will continue to sing “walk in the middle of the crosswalk” (clap, clap) when I cross the street.
To support the Takoma Park Safe Routes to School program, enter the community 5K run!