It started last spring, when we looked at the back parking lot at school, and made suggestions for improvements as a project in physics. They created models, videos, sample situations, and scaled drawings. I was proud of their efforts and forwarded their conclusions to my administration.
Last fall, I gave the new class of physics kids the conclusions their school classmates had developed. I also added in information from our superintendent, in the form of a letter she had written to my students. I challenged them to go further, and to make this safety concern relevant.
And they responded. It started by gathering data in the parking lot before and after school to see how many kids were nearby, and how many potential accidents or near-misses might happen as a result. They also modeled what would happen in these situation by creating sample problems. In short order, they had called the mayor, the city roads committee, the building & grounds supervisor, the bus scheduler. They tossed around ideas ranging from speed bumps to rumble strips, and looked at issues of visibility and delivery trucks. Then they created final presentations. Three young men, Seth, Tyler, and Cameron, synthesized the ideas and met with the administration and the city engineer to discuss further ideas.
Final Suggestions for the West Delaware Parking Lot on Prospect and Sherman Street
After many weeks of tweaking the idea of changing the back parking lot, we have developed our final conclusion. We believe in the back parking lot we need to move the entry and exit to the west about 5 meters, or 15 feet. This will create more visibility for drivers pulling out of the back parking lot.
We also believe the city needs to move the street parking lot on Prospect Street back to the east, so it is behind the bridge. This is a visibility concern for drivers trying to pull onto Prospect from the stop sign on Sherman Street. Designated crosswalks painted in yellow would also help, as students are not crossing in the white space provided.
The parking lot needs to become a horseshoe, and that is easily accomplished by changing the spots into diagonal parking. Finally, we need to curb the parking lot, as much of it allows multiple exits. That is what we believe is the best thing to do. Thank you for your time.
ORIGINAL MAP (note the kids walking in the driveway right now--upwards of 20)
View Larger Map
Your students can do amazing things, if you believe in them and give them freedom. And they will take different paths and make different choices in their design. And they will take away experience, as well as
- collaboration with others
- a relevant, real problem to solve
- experience with models related to physics, including scaling, vectors, momentum, and kinematics
- technology integration
- negotiation and participation in the political process
- presentation and speaking opportunities
From my perspective, that's what makes it all worthwhile.