Judy Haden's class of 13 Year 6 students chose to respond to the risk posed to students by the traffic surrounding the school at drop off and collection times. Judy asked traffic engineers Anita Lin and Jerry Khoo, both of Beca Infrastructure Ltd, to work with the class and help them to identify and achieve their aims – to design safe drop-off zones at the two main gates, relieve traffic congestion, and reinforce road safety messages.
Through surveys, discussion with Manukau City Council, correspondence with parents, motivational posters and meetings with the school Board of Trustees, the class – who called themselves the 'Traffic Tamers' – created two 'walking buses' made up of 10 to 12 students who were previously driven to school.
This safe alternative results in 24 fewer car journeys a day. In addition, the council has approved a proposal for a drop-off zone at the school gates between 8 and 9 a.m.
In doing this project, students developed skills in designing solutions, creating a survey and collecting traffic data, conducting web searches, asking relevant questions, telephoning councils, writing letters and a newsletter to parents, creating motivational posters, and presenting their ideas to the school's Board of Trustees and to meetings of the school community.
The engineers loved working on the project. "It was an honour to work with the Traffic Tamers – they were very talented and always enthusiastic about the project," they said. "We found the experience fulfilling, fun and challenging. It was a unique opportunity for them to solve real-life problems."
Judy entered the project in the Transpower Neighbourhood Engineers Awards, as it perfectly met the eligibility criterion of a "project where teachers, students and engineers work together to meet a need, problem or opportunity in their school or local community". The Traffic Tamers were thrilled to win the 2007 Award for Year 5–8 schools and the prize of $2,000.
"The session with my 'Traffic Tamers' was definitely the highlight of my week," says Judy. "They were motivated, enthusiastic, and keen to learn and participate. They were so excited about working with 'real engineers' and learnt that there are many different types of engineer – they don't all drive bulldozers – and that planning is a vital part of any project.
"Our principal commented that this was one of the best examples of authentic learning she had observed – high praise indeed!"