White Earth Nation students learn about transportation, safety

A student maneuvers a pedal cart through orange cones.

A pedal cart activity taught students about the dangers of distracted driving.

In June, more than 40 White Earth Nation students were introduced to a variety of transportation topics in a daylong session offered by the Roadway Safety Institute (RSI).

The program was part of the White Earth Indian Reservation Summer Academy of Math and Science, a two-week day camp for reservation youth in grades 4 to 8.

The camp focuses on hands-on learning and uses Indian culture and heritage as a vehicle for studying math, science, and engineering. It is offered in partnership by the White Earth Nation and University of Minnesota Extension.

“This is a unique program that has been a great way to meet RSI’s objectives of teaching safety and building tribal partnerships,” says Colleen O’Connor Toberman, CTS/RSI program coordinator.

This year, staff led students through a variety of interactive activities to spark their interest in transportation, engineering, and safety.

In a lesson on road sign design, students learned about sign retroreflectivity, shape, and color before creating their own road signs using the Ojibwe names for local places. Another lesson introduced students to the essentials of bridge design and then allowed students to build their own bridges and test their stability and strength.

Students experienced the dangers of distraction by getting behind the wheel of pedal carts in a lesson co-taught by Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths program regional coordinator Tom Nixon. The lesson demonstrated how distractions and multitasking impair essential concentration while driving and walking.

“The great opportunity we had today was to talk to them before they become drivers,” says Nixon. “The more educated they are, the more aware they’ll be of what their choices will mean.”

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities