College of Education Helping Implement “Safe Routes” Program at Elementary Schools in Old South Baton Rouge
BATON ROUGE – The LSU College of Education’s Department of Kinesiology will be implementing the Safe Routes to School program at Polk and Buchanan elementary schools in Baton Rouge this fall semester.
The project is funded by a $100,000 grant provided to by the National Center for Safe Routes to School. Professor Melinda Solmon and assistant professors Lisa Johnson and Birgitta Baker received the grant award.
The elementary schools will participate in educational sessions about bicycle and pedestrian safety, along with a walking competition to increase the number and frequency of students who bicycle or walk to school. Principal Cheryl Matthews and physical education teacher Sandra Fauver are spearheading the efforts at Polk Elementary School. Principal Patrice Hudson and physical education teacher Kentrell Plain are leading the program at Buchanan Elementary School. Sessions will be conducted in partnership with LSU teacher education students and East Baton Rouge Parish Bike Police.
The program is supervised by Ashley Samson-Givens, a doctoral candidate in the department of kinesiology, and Emily Beasley, a doctoral candidate and a new coordinator in the department’s K-12 program, for students who wish to become certified physical education teachers.
Through the grant, LSU is able to support the students’ efforts by providing the schools with gifts of pedometers, water bottles, T-shirts and gym bags as incentives.
The program will end with a National Walk to School Day event on Oct. 6. The Walk to School Day celebration will take place at Buchanan Elementary from 1-2:30 p.m. and the Polk Elementary celebration will take place from 2:30-3:30 p.m. Students, teachers, and LSU faculty and staff will participate in the National Walk to School Day celebrations.
The development of this project was assisted by information collected during the year-long planning process for the Old South Baton Rouge Neighborhood and Economic Revitalization Strategy, developed by the Baton Rouge Center for Planning Excellence. During that process, four large public meetings were conducted, along with 14 other community stakeholder meetings that involved more than 1,200 Old South Baton Rouge residents and stakeholders. The input gathered from participants at those meetings included community infrastructure improvements such as sidewalks and crossings, providing more opportunities for physical activity for children and creating a more “welcoming” environment.
This project will benefit Old South Baton Rouge, as well as the larger communities of East Baton Rouge Parish and the state of Louisiana by educating students and their families on the importance of physical activity and encouraging them to walk and bike to school through a school-based curriculum; improving the physical environment surrounding the schools to provide safe, pedestrian-friendly route for children and families within walking and cycling distance; increasing bicycle, pedestrian and traffic safety in Old South Baton Rouge; reducing childhood obesity; improving community safety, security and accessibility; reducing residents’ dependency on automotive transportation; and enjoying partnerships among area schools, East Baton Rouge City-Parish government, LSU and the Center for Planning Excellence.
Service-learning is also an important element in this plan. LSU students will work with school personnel to teach lessons about safety education and promote physical activity as a service-learning component of their course requirements. They will also provide support for the encouragement activities. In subsequent years, the partnership and program will be sustained through the service-learning efforts of LSU students in health classes.
The department of kinesiology will survey and analyze measurements to determine increases in the percentage of students walking or biking to school, students’ and families’ understanding of importance of physical activity and students’ and families’ perception of pedestrian safety along routes to school. In addition to this survey data, the project will evaluate children’s knowledge at the end of the pedestrian and bicycle safety modules using written assessments and practical skills tests and also will evaluate the effectiveness of the encouragement activities, such as “walk to school” days, by recording participation levels.