Every summer, San Mateo County Office of Education hosts an Environmental Learning Collaborative (SMELC) where they train teachers how to integrate sustainability topics into their curriculum. This past summer, a transportation component was added to the training, with an emphasis on transportation impacts on the environment and Safe Routes to School as part of the solution. Cupertino Safe Routes to School Coordinator Cherie Walkowiak attended the training as an observer along with Safe Routes to School colleagues from San Jose, the County Public Health Department and the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, with the intent of creating a similar transportation-related teacher training program with the Santa Clara County Office of Education.

As it turns out, Kennedy Middle School science teacher Susan Hansen also attended SMELC this past summer, where she and Cherie met and a collaboration was born.

Ms. Hansen incorporated the SMELC transportation component into her 8th grade science classes this fall as part of her yearly Climate Unit. Ms. Hansen taught students about the environmental impact of vehicle emissions and how they can make a positive impact on the planet by making climate-friendly transportation choices such as walking, biking transit and ridesharing. As part of the unit, she invited Cherie to give her students two lessons. The first was an overview of the Cupertino SR2S program, where Cherie explained all the ways the program makes it safer for students to walk and bike to school. Her second lesson was a Bicycling Life Skills lesson to teach students the rules of the road and how to be safe while biking to school.

Cherie reinforced the importance of sustainable transportation and how students can make a difference by commuting to school by any means other than the single family vehicle. Students learned about the City’s suggested routes to school maps, which highlight suggested walking and biking routes.¬†

As homework, the students  used the maps to plot their own walking or biking route to both Kennedy and Monta Vista, where they will attend high school next year. Cherie concluded her lessons by reminding students that the best way to limit our environmental impact is to change our behavior so that we make decisions with the health of our planet in mind. At the end of the climate unit, Ms. Hansen assigned her students a climate-related project. Lilja Kiiski created the amazing video as her end-of-unit project. It gives a great explanation of transportation conservation, how our choices affect the environment, and what the best transportation options are to slow global warming. Take a look by clicking on the video image!