High school students will be recruited to help Douglas County second-graders understand how to safely walk, cross, run and play in areas where cars and trucks rule the road.
The older students will be trained next spring in how to conduct safety meetings with second-graders at elementary schools throughout the county during the following school year. The program is being organized by the Douglas County Community Health Improvement Partnership and the Safe Kids Douglas County Coalition, using a $9,366 grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation.
The goal: Help children understand ways to walk safely to and from school, learning such lessons as looking “left, right, left” before stepping off a curb and also making eye contact with a driver before walking in front of a stopped vehicle.
Walking to school can encourage children to spend more time outdoors, which in turn can help battle problems related to childhood obesity and other issues, said Janelle Martin, executive director for the partnership.
“We’ve become a more sedentary society,” Martin said. “Any way we can support and encourage kids to have fun being outside and being physically active, that will benefit everybody.
“We want them to be outside and be active, but we want them to be safe doing it.”
The script to be used during presentations is still being developed, and soon program officials will be seeking out students attending Free State, Lawrence and Eudora high schools for training. The students, then, would be prepared to meet next fall with second-graders in public and private schools in the Lawrence and Eudora districts.
The program is starting with second-graders, Martin said, because those students typically are at an age when parents start to consider allowing them to walk short distances on their own, and because second-graders generally are able to retain such information.
Second-graders taking part in presentations would leave with reflectors for their backpacks and an activity book, plus information to be taken home and shared with parents or guardians.
The educational project was among 21 approved for financing through the Kansas Safe Routes to School Program, administrated by the Kansas Department of Transportation. The projects — ranging from the local educational project to others involving installation of sidewalks, pavement markings and signs elsewhere in the state — will share $3.6 million in grant funds provided by the federal government.