Economics, Reading, Social Studies, U.S. Government
Every profession has a vocabulary developed around its products and services. Transportation is no different. Use In the Know to define terms from “accessible vehicles” to “trolley,” “Uber” and “walkable.” Encourage your students to use these terms to distinguish forms of transportation and to write about infrastructure issues to be solved.
At the beginning of each year, Dr. Gridlock features the infrastructure projects and other changes that will impact commuters and tourists in the coming year. Read “10 things that will change commuting in the D.C. region during 2015.”
Locate each of the anticipated projects and other changes on maps of the D.C. region.
Teachers could ask students if any of these major projects and changes is likely to influence them, their neighborhood or people they know. Discuss ways to effectively deal with the inconvenience. Do students see the projects as improvements?
Keep the School Buses Running
Economics, Journalism, Social Studies
To introduce the topic, ask students to talk about the maintenance of a family vehicle. In addition to keeping fuel in the tank, what other basic care can owners do? What if they had to add fuel, watch the oil level and clean the windows on three family vehicles?
Imagine what it would be like to keep a fleet of 1,610 buses running on a sunny day. Drop the temperature to 20 degrees and add snow. Welcome to the world of FCPS and its transportation staff. Read “Bus fleet fights winter chill.” Discussion questions to guide reading are provided in “Behind the Scenes: Keep the School Buses Running.”
Teachers could use this article as a model for covering the departments and staffs that keep a school running. Take readers and viewers of your student media behind the scenes with your cafeteria, custodial and secretarial staffs. You might turn an article about school bus maintenance into a double truck or a series: the drivers, the routes, the roads, by the numbers (gallons per tank per bus, gallons consumed per month in your school system, oil and windshield wiper fluid).
Read an Editorial Cartoon
Economy, Environmental Science, Journalism, Social Studies
The Washington Post editorial cartoonist Tom Toles provides visual commentary on current issues that he determines deserve dialogue. As a member of the op-ed section, he is independent of the news staff.
As the cost of a galloon of gasoline has lowered in recent months, he asks readers to consider what the decision at the gas pump means. Give students “ Tom Toles | Cheap Energy.” In addition to the January 18, 2015, editorial cartoon, students have questions to guide “reading” and discussion.
Determine Where to Live
Economics, Mathematics, Personal Finance, Social Studies
In this activity, students create a profile to determine whether a residence that provides walkability or affordability is their best option. Begin by defining the terms: “affordability,” “commute,” “mass transit,” “paratransit,” “pedestrian” and “walkability.”
Teachers might tie this activity together with creation of a personal budget. How much should they place in a 401(k) account? How much can they afford to spend on housing and daily transportation? The Post’s Color of Money and Get There features are useful.
Give students The Post’s Local Living article "Walkability vs. affordability” to begin discussion of finding a place to live. Provide students with “My Best Place to Live” which asks them to set up a profile. To complete the chart, they will need to get into sections of The Washington Post (Real Estate, Local Living, Weekend, GoingOutGuide), online transportation sources and neighborhood guides. Read about the influence of gasoline prices on home value in "Cheap gas makes suburban houses more valuable." Students may find it interesting that as of 2013, about 4.5 percent of the District’s population commuted to work via bike, according to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Solve a Traffic Problem
Art, Personal Finance, Photography, Social Studies
Photographs of different modes of transportation available in the Washington, D.C., region fill the two-page handout “Solve the Problem.” Teachers can use these pages in several ways.
• Younger students can be asked to identify the forms of transportation. Which of these have they seen? Used?
• Cut the photographs into “cards.” Give students the vocabulary in In the Know and a set of photo cards to categorize the forms of transportation into mass transit, paratransit, commuter rail, heavy rail, light rail. Students will need to justify placing cards into more than one category.
• Do some research on the prices of personal vehicles that are pictured. Which are within their budgets to own? To rent?
• Which of the modes of transportation pictured is an option for commuters in their neighborhood to use? Beyond the set fares, what are the costs to consider when deciding between using one’s personal vehicle and public transportation?