Crossing Guards in the City of Niagara Falls and the Town of Fort Erie are going the extra mile to promote pedestrian safety. This group of dedicated professionals play a key role in delivering a unique student pedestrian safety program named Between the Lines: Safe & Active Travel for School.
The interactive education program engages students in Grades K to 3, through a series of in-class presentations that teach three key messages: the role of Crossing Guards, basics of road safety, and the benefits of active school travel.
“We want to get the messaging across to kids when they’re young. What we found out from running our educational programming in the City of Niagara Falls is that reinforcing the idea makes a difference. We go to the same schools with the training program year after year, and kids who received the message in Grade 1 are excited to see us return the next year when there is a follow up of the lessons they received the previous year,” says Project Lead Julie Ellis, who is the School Crossing Guard Coordinator for the City of Niagara Falls. “Also, we offer the educational program to young kids because we want it to help them be independent by the time their parents feel comfortable letting them walk or wheel to school on their own or with friends.”
The team behind the effort was also keen to capture the attention of young kids and make the training exciting for them. For this purpose, they brought in ‘Blue the Butterfly’, a mascot originally created by Niagara Region and Niagara Student Transportation Services (NSTS).
“There’s a huge desire to promote active modes of travel throughout the Niagara region and we took it as an opportunity to bring ‘Blue the Butterfly’ to life. Earlier, we had created a video with the mascot. Now, there will be a person dressed up as the character, Blue, who joins us for in-class presentations,” says Ellis.
In addition to training kids in the classroom, the project team has created a video version of the training session to involve parents and caregivers in their children’s learning. The training materials are available on the NSTS website for parents to access. Videos are also being used as a tool to promote the program to other agencies and pave the way for expansion of the program to all 12 municipalities in the Niagara region.
The project in Niagara is one of the community-based projects to receive support from the Ontario Active School Travel Fund.