Portland High School Students Explore the Varied Aspects of Transportation


Safe Routes to School grant helps PBOT deliver unique program

A group of students at Parkrose High School in Portland had a unique experience this past school year: they participated in the school’s “Transportation Academy,” created by the Portland Bureau of Transportation. The experience was so well-received, it is expanding to Cleveland High and McDaniel High this fall.

“The Transportation Academy is a broad curriculum that covers laws, driving safely, skills for transit and bikes, and also discussions about policy and climate change,” explained Meaghan Russell, Safety Education and Outreach coordinator with PBOT.

The academy was offered at Parkrose through the school district’s Elevate Oregon program. Elevate works with traditionally underserved young people to help them develop leadership skills and make connections, both in and out of the classroom. Transportation as a topic for learning fits well with Elevate’s mission to “…build relationships with youth to promote education, self-reliance and achievement.”

Safety and so much more

The PBOT team had piloted the academy for two years at another school, but this was a first for the Parkrose School District, and it was the first “train the trainer” approach. Four teachers at Parkrose participated – one for each grade – and they learned about several key aspects of transportation.

Topics included things like climate connections, transportation equity and civic engagement. Funded in part by an innovation grant from ODOT’s Safe Routes to School education program, the academy has as its overriding theme, of course, safety.  From there, teachers could adjust the topics depending on the students’ needs, interests and goals. In Portland, multimodal transportation is always of interest.

“Living in a city you have so many options to get around,” said PBOT’s Gui Fonseca, Youth Engagement  coordinator, in a short video about the program. “You’ve got the bus, the Max. You can walk or ride your bike, and it’s important to help them do that safely. It’s a sense of freedom.”

Learning from doing

Students in the Elevate program take their regular classes and one that’s an Elevate class. After presentations, discussions and activities in the Transportation Academy last fall, the students chose a final project to work on in the spring.

“Some made photo voice projects, where they took pictures of things that represent how they get around,” Russell said. “Some were walking leaders for students at elementary schools in the neighborhood.”

The students had thoughtful ideas for their final projects, and for Russell, that was revealing.

“I was really struck by how much some of the students connected with transportation and already cared about it.”

Article provide by Shelley M. Snow, ODOT

About Author

Shelley Snow is the Strategic Communications Coordinator with Oregon Department of Transportation

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