In the Spring of 2016, the Ottawa Safety Council (OSC) launched a program to complement the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority’s (OSTA’s) Walking School Bus (WSB) program by adding responsible, trained and equipped Grade 5 and 6 students as Junior Leaders to work under the supervision of the adult WSB Leader and it has been an outstanding success!
Having Junior Leaders walk with the WSB daily creates a peer-to-peer learning model which increases the level of safety for the children on the WSB and encourages the use of active, safe transportation. As well, it increases the level of safety awareness and fosters leadership skills in older elementary school students in Grades 5 and 6.
Being a Junior Leader is also a lot of FUN! Junior Leaders are “Safe Walking Ambassadors” in their schools and are encouraged to share safety tips and the benefits of active transportation, as well as track the number of steps the Walking School Bus takes throughout the year. They are rewarded for their help throughout the year with hot chocolate days, movie recesses and a special field trip at the end of the year in June.
Junior Leaders are invited to apply for the position yearly and must exhibit the following qualities:
- Be mature, dependable and trustworthy
- Have a positive attitude and be a positive role model for other students
- Good time management skills
- Have a willingness to take on responsibility
- Be respectful of rules and authority
- Be confident and personable
- Have good grades and attendance, as well as good relationships with other students
Junior Leaders are expected to meet the WSB at the first stop on the route and walk with it daily. They position themselves at the back, middle and front of the bus, in order to keep an eye on all of the students on the bus and ensure no one veers off course or lags behind. They are encouraged to assist the very young students by holding their hands and giving them encouragement to keep up. They are also given an alert whistle and training on the proper scenarios in which to use the whistle, in order to alert the adult Leader to any dangerous situations or incidents that may occur. The Junior Leaders are instructed to take their position very seriously and to let their adult Leader know if they are going to be absent.
There are many benefits to the Junior Leader program. These include:
|Benefits to “Junior Leaders”:
|Benefits to the Walking School Bus Program and Participants|
|An enhanced awareness of pedestrian safety and traffic/environmental hazards||Peer to peer modelling of healthy, safe lifestyle.|
|The acquisition of leadership skills||Additional eyes and ears on the Walking School Bus.|
|The acquisition of teamwork skills||Assistance for the adult Leaders.|
|A sense of pride, purpose and responsibility.||Increased awareness of Walking School Bus program in school community.|
|Increased physical activity & FUN!||Increased awareness of benefits of safe, active transportation among “tweens”|
Grade 4’s and 5’s that attend schools that have a Walking School Bus program will be invited to apply to be a Junior Leader in April/May for the following school year. The application forms are forwarded to the Principal/VP and four of the strongest candidates are chosen and invited to attend the training. Training occurs before the end of the school year and Junior Leaders will be ready to start their duties in the Fall when school is back in session.
Junior Leaders are provided with a Handbook and undergo a 3-hour training session that includes the following:
- A review of the roles of the Junior Leader & Behavior Expectations while on Duty,
- An overview of Crosswalk and Pedestrian Safety,
- Procedures for walking along with students
- Emergency Procedures
- Leadership Skills
- A review of basic conflict resolution techniques and guidance techniques for working with children
- Small group practice
Junior Leaders are present on the WSB in order to assist the adult WSB Leaders. Ultimately, it is the adult WSB Leaders who are responsible for supervising the activities of the Junior Leaders. Junior Leader training stresses the importance of modelling safe behaviours to the younger students, as well as emphasizes the importance of not abusing the position of authority they are in or being a bully to the younger students. Finally, Junior Leaders are trained to alert the adult Leader to emergency situations or behavioural issues so that the adult Leader may step in and deal with the situation. Junior Leaders are not expected to discipline younger students or deal with injuries/children acting up.
Junior Leaders receive their equipment at the training session. They are given their very own orange retro-reflective vest and an alert whistle. The training also covers the importance of caring for their equipment and when it is appropriate to use the alert whistle.