No Impact Plan: Transportation
Study how improved street design could encourage more students to use active forms of transportation like walking or biking to get to school. Educators can use this lesson to help students explore how improved street design could encourage more of their classmates to use active forms of transportation to get to school.
Time Required: 50 minutes
By the end of this lesson, students will:
•Contribute to a class table or graph that shows methods of transportation used to get to school.
•Analyze data in the class table or graph.
•Discuss the term, “active transportation.”
•Use listening skills and strategies to understand informational text.
•Use viewing skills and strategies to make observations and interpret video clips.
•Examine the roads near their school and recommend changes that would both improve safety for cyclists and encourage more students to use active transportation to get to school.
1. Take a class poll to determine what form of transportation each student used to get to school today. (Likely answers will include via car, bus, bike, walking, etc.) Help students organize the class data in a simple table or bar graph. (If time permits, students could instead present this data in a pie chart with percentages.)
•Which form of transportation is most popular among members of the class? Why?
•Is the most commonly-used form of transportation also the one that is best for the environment? Why or why not?
3. Point out that the best forms of transportation for the environment and for human health are powered by humans rather than fossil fuels, and don’t pollute the air. These forms are called, “active transportation” and include activities like biking, walking, rollerblading, riding scooters, skateboarding, etc. In addition to helping the environment, active transportation is good exercise, reduces traffic congestion, is typically less stressful than driving, and is significantly cheaper and more fun. When active transportation isn’t possible, the next best methods of transportation are to use mass transit or to carpool. These options also reduce traffic congestion, and they have a lower environmental impact than driving alone. Given our existing transportation infrastructure, most Americans use cars and trucks to get around, and this has a major impact on the environment. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says driving a private vehicle is one of our most polluting daily activities.
4. Environmental writer Colin Beavan wonders if our cars make us happy. In his book, No Impact Man, he assembled some statistics that show what he calls the “true cost” of our cars. Display the book excerpt and review each bullet point.
•Why do students think that people are willing to spend so much time and money working to pay for their cars?
•What impact would using active transportation have on our health, wallets, quality of life, and the environment?
•What barriers prevent more people – including students – from using active transportation, mass transit, or carpooling?
5. Point out that streets in the U.S. have been built to favor cars, rather than pedestrians, cyclists, and others who use active transportation. To illustrate this point, tell the class that they are going to watch a video clip (length 1:17) that shows Beavan and his wife in New York City on a bike excursion to the beach. Focus student viewing by having them evaluate how well the streets along their route are designed to serve cars, cyclists, and pedestrians. You may need to watch the clip a couple of times to notice fine details. (Note: To help students better understand the dialogue in the clip, you might want to remind students that the man in the video writes about environmental issues.)
•What method of transportation did the streets shown in the video favor? Use evidence to support your answer (ex: street markings, presence or lack of designated bike lanes).
•Which parts of the couple’s journey seemed the safest for cyclists? Which seemed the most dangerous? Why?
•How was the couple rewarded for using their bikes for transportation?
7. Explain that New York City and a number of cities around the country are taking a close look at the design of their streets in order to make them more walkable, bike-friendly, and transit-oriented. For example, to improve safety for cyclists and encourage more people to ride their bikes, New York City has installed 200 miles of bike routes. As a result, commuter cycling has increased 66% in the past two years.
8. Tell students that they are going to do some street design of their own by looking at the roads near your school and recommending changes that would both improve safety and encourage more students to use active transportation like cycling to get to school.
9. Display an aerial view of your school and the surrounding roads. (Choose the best image of your school in advance from services like Mapquest.com, Maps.Google.com, or National Geographic’s Map Machine.)
10. Ask students to take turns pointing out specific areas around the school where safety could be improved for cyclists. List these “areas of concern” on the board and number them for easier reference. Then show them the Streetfilms video, “NYC DOT Explains Bike Lanes in the Big Apple” (length 5:39) and ask them to take notes on the different street design strategies shown for improving bicycle safety.
11. For homework, have students each choose one “area of concern” listed on the board and determine which bike lane or other street design strategy would best improve safety in that location so more students would be encouraged to use active transportation to get to school. Students should describe the current safety concerns in writing and explain how their proposed strategy would improve the situation. Students should also provide a “before” and “after” sketch to illustrate the safer conditions their recommendation would bring.
Source:No Impact Project
Resource Type:Lesson Plan
Subject(s):English / Language Arts, Geography, Civics & Citizenship, Environmental Studies,
Topic:Energy Use and Conservation, Solutions,
Level:Intermediate / MiddleSecondary
Grade: 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
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