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2004 Transportation — Co-winner 2

Region of Waterloo, Ontario

You Can Clear the Air: Grade 3 Curriculum Supplement

Population: 480,000

You Can Clear the Air, a supplement to the Grade 3 curriculum, is part of the implementation plan of the Region of Waterloo's Transportation Master Plan. With the intent of raising a new generation of travel-wise citizens, the program educates children about issues related to the use of motor vehicles and air pollution. The teachers' guide includes games, activities, facts and exercises and, to date, 690 students have been part of the program. If only five per cent of these students make a change in their travel habits-by encouraging their parents not to drive them to school-about half a tonne of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will be diverted every year. The region expects the most significant impacts to come in the future when this generation of students is in a position to make their own travel choices.

Background

The Region of Waterloo is made up of three urban municipalities — Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo-and four rural townships — North Dumfries, Wellesley, Wilmot and Woolwich.

Waterloo Region has a history of environmental leadership. In 2002, for example, the region won the FCM-CH2M HILL Sustainable Community Award for its Protecting Water Supplies at the Source program, and in 2001 for its Transforming Greenhouse Gas into Renewable Energy program.

Like other fast growing urban communities, the region has struggled with issues of poor air quality, increased traffic congestion, and worsening incidences of obesity and asthma. To address these issues, the community asked the regional government to place more emphasis on reducing automobile use.

Results

  • Over 690 Grade 3 students have heard the messages of the program, and all requests for GRT tours have been filled. If only five per cent of these students can encourage their parents to let them walk or bike to school, about half a tonne of GHG emissions would be eliminated every year.
  • The Teachers' Guide gives teachers the facts and tools to help students learn more about air pollution, its effects, and their role in making transportation choices. It is available in CDROM format to any organization, upon request.
  • An excellent relationship was developed between the region's transportation planning department and GRT to help deliver the bus tour segment of the program, which will help in future collaborations between departments.
  • "Our Kids Say...Travel Wisely" informs the wider community of the importance of sustainable transportation.

Lessons Learned

  • COMMUNITY-BASED SOCIAL MARKETING. CBSM was a key part of this program, ensuring that students heard the messages from trusted sources.
  • CHAMPIONS. Senior management "buy in" and strong partnerships helped to remove any potential concerns. Graham Vincent, director of transportation planning, was particularly effective in providing feedback and encouragement to the project leader.
  • ALLOW FOR FEEDBACK TIME. Before launching the program, the materials were piloted with 13 teachers to gain their insights, ideas, and suggestions. Project staff realized that, because teachers' workloads are often quite heavy, they needed to build in additional time for feedback.
  • MAKE COPIES AVAILABLE. The project team provided at least one copy of the materials to every school in both school boards. In addition, they prepared a CD-ROM for any other organization that requests the information.
  • ENSURE A LONG SHELF-LIFE. The project team will periodically update the Teachers' Guide as new information becomes available, and circulate the updates to schools.
  • BE AWARE OF WHAT OTHERS ARE DOING. Ms. Woodhall advised finding out what local transit providers and citizen groups are already doing since they may already have an educational component to their services.
  • BE SENSITIVE TO CURRENT EVENTS. "EcoTracks," a program that encourages children to walk to school together, is a feature of the program. However, it was not widely implemented during the pilot due to an incident involving the assault of a student that occurred around the same time. The region believes strongly that this is a vital part of the program as it addresses the safety concerns held by parents, which contributes to their decision to drive their children to and from school.

Partners and Collaboration

Internal

  • Planning, Housing and Community Services — Transportation Planning
  • Transportation and Environmental Services — Transit Services (GRT)
  • Corporate Resources

External

  • Waterloo Region District School Board (public)
  • Waterloo Catholic District School Board
  • Greenest City
  • Active & Safe Routes to School (a program of Go for Green)
Page Updated: 21/12/2015