It was six weeks ago that “Scan and Notify” came to Birch Lane Elementary School.
Interested students were given rubber bracelets with barcode tags that they would scan each morning as they arrived at the school’s bike racks. The information was recorded in a laptop computer and an instant text, email or phone message was sent to each student’s parents to let them know their child had arrived at school.
There was a two-fold purpose to the pilot project: to notify parents their children had arrived safely at school, and to increase the number of children logging their alternative transportation miles in the Saveagallon program.
A month and a half later, the program is considered a resounding success.
“We gave out almost 200 bracelets and sometimes there’s a line of kids waiting to scan in,” said Sanne Fettinger, a Birch Lane parent and bike coordinator. “Parents love it.”
Kids who never biked to school before are biking now, she said, and participation in Saveagallon has gone from about 40 Birch Lane students last year to 137 this year.
By comparison, the school with the next highest number of participants, North Davis Elementary, has 72 students registered with Saveagallon, and third-place Holmes Junior High has 20. That’s not to say kids aren’t biking to those schools; the bike racks at Holmes on any given day indicate many times more than that are riding to school — they’re just not participating and logging those miles in the program.
That’s one of the reasons the Saveagallon folks brought the scan-and-notify system to Birch Lane: to make it easier for families to participate. Now, the miles to and from school are automatically logged when they scan in.
Davis Bicycles! members Tim Starback and Phil Cox, who created the scanning system, are also the brains behind the Saveagallon program, which rewards Davis students for choosing alternative forms of transportation. Students and their families track how often — and how far — they travel by foot, bike, car pool, public transportation or any other non-gas-guzzling method, and log their miles on the Saveagallon website. Participating students are then eligible for prizes every month.
All told, 436 Davis children participated in the program last year, saving 1,710 gallons of gas.
And all those kids biking to school make for many benefits beyond just helping the Earth.
“It’s better for the kids,” Fettinger noted. “They stay fit, and there’s less congestion in front of the school.”
The only glitch in the program thus far happened when the network at Birch Lane was down and the system was unable to notify parents their children had scanned in, prompting a number of parents to call the school office to ask if their children had arrived.
But since the pilot project is not a school or school district program, office staff didn’t have information on who had scanned in or not, something organizers regularly remind parents about.
Rather, the program is a product of Davis Bicycles!, the Davis Bike Club and Saveagallon, as well as the seven parent volunteers who help Fettinger with the scanning every school day.
For more information on Saveagallon, visit http://www.saveagallon.org.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 747-8051.