Redesign My Street! Street Design For Pedestrian Safety

By Jennifer Manglicmot, November 21, 2010

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • Urban Planning

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts
  • Mathematics

Lesson Time

300 minutes for classroom activities


Pedestrian safety is a significant problem in the world, particularly in urban areas located in the United States.  In this problem-solving and action-oriented lesson, students will explore the problems of pedestrian safety in their community, and consider how current street design enhances or hinders walking safety near their school.  Students will brainstorm ideas to address this problem, conduct interviews, and research and collect ideas to redesign a street and/or intersection.

National Standards

Common Core English Language Arts Strand Writing Grades 6-8 W.6-8.7. Conduct short research projects to answer a question, drawing on several sources and refocusing the inquiry when appropriate. W.6-8.9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. Common Core English Language Arts Strand Speaking and Listening Grades 6-8 SL.6-8.1. Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacherled) with diverse partners on grade 6 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly. SL.6-8.2. Interpret information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how it contributes to a topic, text, or issue under study. SL.6-8.3. Delineate a speaker’s argument and specific claims, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not. SL.6-8.4. Present claims and findings, sequencing ideas logically and using pertinent descriptions, facts, and details to accentuate main ideas or themes; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation. SL.6-8.5. Include multimedia components (e.g., graphics, images, music, sound) and visual displays in presentations to clarify information. Common Core Mathematics 6-8 Solve real-world and mathematical problems involving area, surface area, and volume.

Language Arts

Writing Standard 1. Level III. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process

5. Uses content, style, and structure (e.g., formal or informal language, genre, organization) appropriate for specific audiences (e.g., public, private) and purposes (e.g., to entertain, to influence, to inform)

6. Writes expository compositions (e.g., states a thesis or purpose; presents information that reflects knowledge about the topic of the report; organizes and presents information in a logical manner, including an introduction and conclusion; uses own words to develop ideas; uses common expository structures and features, such as compare-contrast or problem-solution) 

Writing Standard 4. Level III. Gathers and uses information for research purposes

1. Gathers data for research topics from interviews (e.g., prepares and asks relevant questions, makes notes of responses, compiles responses) 2. Uses a variety of resource materials to gather information for research topics (e.g., magazines, newspapers, dictionaries, schedules, journals, surveys, globes, atlases, almanacs, websites, databases, podcasts)

Visual Arts

Standard 1. Understands and applies media, techniques, and processes related to the visual arts

Standard 2. Knows how to use structures (e.g., sensory qualities, organizational principles, expressive features) and functions of art

Standard 3. Knows a range of subject matter, symbols, and potential ideas in the visual arts

Standard 4. Understands the visual arts in relation to history and cultures

Mathematics Standard 4. Level III Understands and applies basic and advanced properties of the concepts of measurement 6. Selects and uses appropriate units and tools, depending on degree of accuracy required, to find measurements for real-world problems 8. Selects and uses appropriate estimation techniques (e.g., overestimate, underestimate, range of estimates) to solve real-world problems


Students will:

  • observe the current urban planning that is present in their community, and identify positive and negative walking environments
  • conduct research to learn about positive walking environments that promote safety and reduce the number of pedestrian accidents
  • consider which ideas and solutions will work in the immediate pedestrian areas adjacent to the school and create a design solution that will promote a remedy for unsafe streets and intersections
  • redesign the street and intersection adjacent to their school to improve pedestrian safety
  • present their redesign ideas to a panel and use the feedback to modify their designs accordingly


computers (for groups of 2) with access to the Internet

Web Sites:



  • chart paper (with a ready-to-fill-in research graphic organizer drawn on it)
  • chart markers
  • camera
  • printer (to print pictures)
  • tracing paper
  • masking tape
  • design journals
  • Post-It notes
  • Graphic Organizer (to gather information about positive and negative walking environments)
  • rubric for Street Redesign (see sample rubric)
  • poster paper
  • pencils
  • colored pencils
  • markers
  • crayons
  • variety of recyclable materials (cardboard, clay, natural materials, string, etc.)
  • computers with Internet access and anything else that may be used to enhance students’ street redesign presentation


  • deficiency: an amount that is lacking or inadequate
  • design: to create, fashion, execute, or construct according to plan
  • obstructed: to hinder from passage, action, or operation
  • pedestrian: a person going on foot; a walker
  • urban planning: city planning; determining and drawing up plans for the future physical arrangement and condition of a community
  • walkability: the ease with which a pedestrian can navigate a given area


Day 1: Building Background and Brainstorming

(Note: The purpose of this activity is to activate students’ awareness of the pedestrian safety problem in the world, and particularly, in their neighborhood.)

VOCABULARY INTRODUCED IN THIS LESSON: obstructed, pedestrian, walkability

1. Involve class in a discussion about walking and their experiences as pedestrians in their community.  Chart information during discussion.  Have students journal their experiences in their design notebooks, as well as take notes on the discussion and readings.  Ask:

  • How many of you walk to school?
  • How many of you are dropped off by a vehicle?
  • Have you seen any unsafe conditions while walking? Describe those conditions.
  • Do you think that pedestrian problems exist in your community?
  • In your community (particularly on the way to school) where have you seen unsafe areas for pedestrians?
  • What have you observed?
  • Which streets and intersections pose particular problems?
  • Why do you think so?

2. Tell students that pedestrian safety is a serious problem in the United States, particularly in urban areas similar to their community.  Share these Web sites with them, read them together as a class and in small groups, to find out more facts and statistics about pedestrian safety. Start with: (home page of PEDSAFE, sponsored by U.S. Dept. of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration) and click on “Crash Statistics” link.  Then go to a local news Web site that has a recent story about a pedestrian accident in your particular city/community. (This will illustrate the need, relevance, and importance for redesigning streets for pedestrian safety in urban communities.)

3. Divide the class into small groups.  Give each group a piece of paper.  Ask students to brainstorm solutions to the pedestrian safety problems that are present on their school campus and in their neighborhood.  The Brainstorming Process includes:

a) Step One: State the problem that you are trying to solve and write it on the top of your paper.

b) Step Two: Take time to think about the problem.

c) Step Three: Have each group member take a turn talking while all members listen.  Accept all ideas and record them on a piece of paper, or on Post-It notes.

d) Step Four: Take time to think about the ideas your group generates.

e) Step Five: Reflect on your ideas and decide which ideas should be developed.  Try to group and organize your ideas on Post-It notes.

f) Step Six: Share your ideas with the rest of the class.  These ideas will be used in the next activity.

3. Have groups share their suggestions with the class.  Record the groups' ideas on the board or chart.  Discuss how each idea could solve the pedestrian problems in their community.

(Note: Days 2, 3, 4 & 5 will focus on Design, Brainstorm, Research, and Create.  In this part of the lesson, students will take a walking field trip to research the positive and negative walking environments in their community.  Students will also conduct interviews with school staff members, other students, people in the community, and special visitors to the classroom to gather more information about the pedestrian problems.  Visitors can include a designer and urban planner from a local planning and design firm. Students will use the information gathered during the research process to brainstorm solutions for a street or intersection in their community.)

Day 2:

(Note: Today’s lesson consists of an introduction to design and urban planning, and interviews with school staff members, students, and, if possible, a local urban planner.)

VOCABULARY INTRODUCED IN THIS LESSON: design, deficiency, urban planning

1. Ask students, “What is design and why is it important?”

2. Tell students that urban planning is a field of design that solves problems in the environments in which we live.  Urban planning uses design to enhance the quality of life for all of the individuals that share a particular urban environment.  Tell students that they are going to be urban planners, in order to solve the problems of pedestrian safety in their community.  Tell them that as designers, they must conduct research to gather information about the particular issues in the environment, in order to redesign a street and/or intersection.

3. Tell the class that they will conduct interviews today to find out what school staff members and students think about the pedestrian issues in their school’s community.  Divide the class into partner groups.  Give each group three double-sided journal pages (see attachments) that they will use to conduct and gather evidence from their interviews.

4. As a class, brainstorm possible questions that can be asked to gather ideas, thoughts, and experiences of interviewees.  Groups prepare at least three to five questions to conduct interviews.

5. Class will take a walk through the campus to conduct on-campus interviews with school staff members and students.

6. After the collecting process is over, gather students to share their results.  Chart common and shared responses, and discuss patterns (if any) that may have been revealed through the discussions.

Day 3:

(Note: Today’s lesson consists of a walking field trip to identify positive and negative walking areas, as well as problem areas and deficiencies related to unsafe crossings.)

1. Tell students that they will take a walking field trip to gather observation notes and take pictures of positive and negative walking environments.  Show them this Web site to discuss the examples of positive and negative walking environments:

2. Tell students that they will set up an organized chart to keep track of the different types of positive and negative walking features, as well as to note the different locations of these features (see attachment).  They will walk in teams of four people (two partner groups together).  One team member will observe and note quantitative data (marking tallies on the chart, taking measurements, noting how many cars go by in a five-to-ten minute period, how many people jaywalk, etc.,) and one team member will observe and take notes on qualitative data in the design notebook (street and sidewalk conditions, conducting interviews with community members while teacher/aide/parent helper is present, making sketches with labels, diagrams, etc.).

3. Give students a copy of the pdf (see Web site above) and give them about five minutes to read and discuss it with a partner.  Ask clarifying questions to check for understanding:

  • What will an unsafe crossing look like?
  • What will a safe crossing look like?
  • What are sidewalk gaps?
  • What do missing curb ramps look like?
  • What is an obstructed sidewalk?
  • What does poor walkability mean?

4. Before leaving, review field trip safety rules:

  • Stay with the group.
  • Do not cross any street or intersection alone---cross with your group.
  • Obey all traffic rules.
  • No running---walking only.
  • Do not start or conduct an interview with anyone by yourself---consult with teacher first, and then make sure that the teacher can help you and stand by you during the interview.

(Note: Add on any other rules, at your discretion, depending on your class and age group.)

5. Go out and conduct the walking field trip!  Collect data, observe, and take notes.

6. After the collecting process is over, gather students to share their results.

Days 4 & 5:

(Note: These sessions consist of brainstorming and redesigning a street and/or intersection in the community that has problem areas or deficiencies for a positive, safe walking environment.)

1. Give groups about ten minutes to review all of their notes from the walking field trip and interviews.  Remind students to focus on defining the problem that they want to solve.

2. Next, give groups about ten minutes to review their photos from their cameras (on computers if possible).  Tell them that they must select one particular area (street and/or intersection) to redesign into a positive, safe walking environment.

3. After they select the specific street and/or intersection, give each group a blank piece of chart paper.  Ask students to brainstorm ideas to solve the problems of their particular walking environment.  Have the students follow the brainstorm process (see Day 1).  Encourage students to think about the existing elements, safety issues, and overall design of the street and/or intersection.

4. After printing students’ pictures, provide pieces of tracing paper and masking tape.  Have them sketch out their ideas of redesigning the environment.  Give them multiple copies so they can try out a few ideas before narrowing it down to one.

5. When students select the final elements of their redesign, they are ready to think about presenting these ideas to the panel.  Students will be provided with a list of questions to help guide them through their design process, particularly to help students choose their final designs.  Questions to ask:

  • What shapes will we use to create the design?
  • How do elements of our design function?
  • Which elements are both functional and aesthetically pleasing?
  • What materials will be used to create the redesigned street and/or intersection?
  • Have you sketched different designs?
  • How are they alike?
  • How are they different?
  • Which elements of your design eliminate the negative walking environment and promote a positive walking environment?
  • Which design is the most creative? Why?
  • How will community members feel about the design?

6. Students will sketch and label their designs.  Teacher will conduct at least one ten-minute session with each design group, to promote reflection on the designs that they have created.

7. The students present their designs to a panel of school and community members, as well as their peers.

8. After the panel presentations, have students meet in their groups to reflect on the feedback.  They will take the feedback and use it to enhance or modify their designs.  They will present their modified and enhanced redesigns to their class.


Street and/or Intersection Redesign Rubric: Allow fifteen to twenty minutes to review the Street and/or Intersection Redesign Rubric with students (see sample rubric).  The rubric will consist of four criteria: group and class discussion participation; following the design process; effort and perseverance; meeting the design criteria for the street redesign.

Differentiate Instruction: Monitor partner and small groups to make sure that they are supporting each other through research, design, and writing tasks.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Language Arts: Students could write business letters, as well as e-mail correspondence, to local city urban planners and city council members, explaining the importance of their designs and the need for these designs to be carried out for their school and for their neighborhood.

Mathematics: Students could take a survey in their school and neighborhood communities, to gather information regarding pedestrian life.  They could create graphs to represent this data.  They may use this data to begin a campaign to raise awareness of pedestrian safety.

Graphic Design: Students create images, logos, and text to promote pedestrian safety in the community.

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