In our first blog, we explained that we are working with the Voorhees Transportation Center (VTC) to supplement the ShapingNJ mini-grant. As part of the data collection, VTC provided us with a tally sheet so that teachers can record how children travel to and from the three target schools. If most of them are driven, the researchers might suggest building a safe drop-off loop. However, if most students walk, then better crosswalks, flashing lights, and traffic patterns could be recommended.
VTC provided valuable insight into how data can often get confused when the respondents are young children. Kindergarten and first graders think concretely. When asked “Did you walk to school today?” they may answer “yes” because they walked from the parking lot to their classroom after being dropped off in a car. Similarly, few children are acquainted with the term “carpool”, and can get confused; more simply it can be explained as “driving to school with other people”. VTC offered the following suggestions for clarifying the various modes of transportation when speaking with children:
“Did you walk all the way from your house to school?” “Will you be walking from school all the way to your house?”
“Did someone drive you to the school parking lot?”
“When you came to school this morning, did you ride in a car with other kids who do not live in your house?” “When you go home today, will other kids in the car go to different houses?”
“Did you ride your bike to school this morning? Is your bike parked inside the school/on a rack in the school parking lot? Will you ride your bike home today, or will someone put it in the car and drive you home.”
School principals were grateful to have the suggestions compiled into a one-page instruction sheet that was passed out to teachers. Monument school was the first and we are awaiting the completed surveys from Wilson and Hedgepeth. We will be putting the numbers to work as soon as the walking audits are completed in May and use the information to guide the selection of mini routes around the schools.