By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
POTTSTOWN >> Lincoln Elementary students took safety to the streets Friday as part of a traffic demonstration.
Communities in Motion, a foundation of the Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management Association, used a miniature road layout to teach children traffic safety rules. The constructed layout included street lines, traffic signs and a stop light. The Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation awarded the transportation association with a grant so they could provide a presentation called Traffic Safety Town to all third-grade students in the Pottstown School District.
“Our goal is to have all the kids be safe and know the rules of the road…as they navigate the streets; whether they’re on their bikes, walking to school or even knowing how to be a passenger in a car,” said Danielle Wiley, Travel Demand Management coordinator for the transportation association.
On Friday, Lincoln Elementary Students had the opportunity to be walkers, bikers and drivers while using the mini road layout. Children holding black bars represented bicyclists while those holding a white circle represented drivers. Everyone received white hats with the words “Traffic Safety Captain” which were used as helmets during the demonstration.
Pottstown Police Officer Brandon Unruh was also at the presentation to help children learn the importance of being safe on the road. While students navigated the street intersections within the mini layout, Unruh handed out “tickets” to anyone not obeying rules. Traffic rules included walking not running, signaling with your arm that you’re turning, and halting at a red light or stop sign. Anyone that got a ticket from the officer had to do 10 jumping jacks.
“We thought it be more effective to have an officer here. That way they (students) see the officer and it sticks more,” Wiley said.
She said students using the mini road layout all at once created confusion which can represent actual traffic at times.
“They really have to pay attention to the signs and to the ways of the road,” Wiley said.
Even with the possibility of receiving a ticket; students had fun traveling on the miniature road layout. Children smiled and laughed as they found their way through the busy traffic.
“I think it’s going really well. They’re really responding to it,” said Pottstown Assistant Borough Manager Erica Batdorf who watched one group of Lincoln Elementary students navigate pretend streets.
Batdorf is also a board member of Communities in Motion. She said the Traffic Safety Town presentation was a great idea for the district especially with the several transportation initiatives happening in the borough. Walk and Bike Pottstown is a collaborative effort that intends to increase physical activity through safe walking and bicycling routes. The Walking School Bus is a group of trained adult volunteers that walk Rupert Elementary students to school on predetermined safe routes. Batdorf said with these projects, the question was brought up on how children would be trained to take safe routes. She said the traffic safety presentation was a great solution.
Traffic Safety Town is a pilot program that started in the borough at the end of April and ended last month. Travel Demand Manager Brean Flynn, of the GVF transportation association, said a total of about 275 students have participated in the sessions. Flynn said if the program continues next year then the goal is to have this year’s 3rd graders come back next year to help teach younger students about traffic safety.