When we learned that MPS was starting a Safe Pathways program we were intrigued. Through conversations we had as we were starting Learn Deep, we knew there was interest from folks in public health on student’s perception of where it is safe to walk or bike. Aside from the daily stress of living in neighborhoods that don’t feel safe, the less safe students feel, the less they will get out to walk or bike, and that can drive obesity. What’s more, an exploration of safe routes to school could lead kids in a number of different directions.
Our poking around to see who might be interested led us to the 16th Street Community Health Center and a walkability study they were doing on the south side. We found a number of resources interested in spatial data analysis and a desire to see high schools tap into the organizations working with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tools. We connected with folks from UW Madison who have developed methods of community engaged research that capture student perceptions of their neighborhoods. And of course, there is a wealth of expertise around storytelling, which can be a key point of initial engagement.
As a next experiment, we’d like to engage students who don’t see their routes to school as particularly safe to find the question that resonates with them and can serve as a starting point for a rich exploration. If you’d like to try something with us, let us know.