What if every school had a scholar patrol rolled out?

MMABATHO– Come rain or sunshine the scholar patrol team must come out and coordinate the roadway crossing behavior of their schoolmates. Educators and schools who are coordinating this effort need to be lauded and supported. Municipalities need to take school precincts more seriously in order to educate learners about good quality roadway behaviors. This could save more lives now and in later years.

There’s a big difference between how the world looks and interacts with adults compared with children. Physical, social and cognitive differences influence the manner in which roadway users interact with their environment and how planners conceptualize design. On one hand do adults who develop much of the neighborhood plans know how children experience place, or do they assume they know what’s best for the young? On the other are “perfectly safe” environments a cocoon that insulates youth from contrasts in reality that will confront at some point or another?

The first question leans on the evidence that most children do not see as far as adults and struggle to interpret the speed at which a vehicle is moving. Many young kids easily underestimate how long it takes to cross a roadway, hence they’re always running to cross. This is worsened by the scale of the sidewalks, road edges and other stumbling blocks that are much larger for younger children than for older ones. Without being a child, planners are far removed from the contextual realities of children’s mobility and access experiences. Hence it’s probably the case that more work on young children’s mobility is key.

The second question leans on the idea that when learners are raised in a protectionist environment a number of peculiarities emerge. For one, some studies find that parents who wrap their children’s local mobility in a car disable kids from having spatial knowledge of their environment. So they don’t necessarily know how to navigate their way home even conceptually. In this sense children who walk, cycle or use public transport to school develop various social and spatial skills that others might not. A daily commute to school comes with a myriad of expected and unexpected experiences that educate a young person in more broader life-skills that are an asset in later life.

Along both strands of thought, scholar patrols are probably the most essential part of ensuring the safety of children’s mobility and access to school. They are also profound activities aimed at educating the young mind about how to cross the roadway and reinforcing their confidence with respect to the car. Against the backdrop of the morning rush, they force drivers to recognize children on the road and adapt to lending them priority. On a social level, scholar patrols teach leadership and roadway compliant behaviors for young children which might be transferred to other road use situations. Considered as a broader strategy toward life orientation in the context of mobility, access and roadway use it might be worthwhile to ensure that scholar patrols are rolled out all over. What if that was the case?

*This is the first installment on a bi-weekly series about this topic. If you have any recommendations please share with me.

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