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Students at Pine Ridge Elementary School are taking Problem Based Learning to a new level and hoping to find a solution to an issue that affects their community every day.

Even though a great percentage of the school's students live within the "walk zone", which is defined as a two mile radius from the school, there are very few students who walk or bike to school.

In an effort to affect real-world change, upper elementary students have embarked on a project that involves the Lake Sumter Metropolitan Planning Organization as well as the neighborhoods surrounding the school.

"This project is truly STEM based in that students will use all the elements of science, math, technology and engineering to study the safety issues and come up with solutions to the problem" said teacher and project coordinator Whitney Kreiling.

Students began the project by surveying families of Pine Ridge, residents in the surrounding communities, and the student body. This data will be used to prioritize the safety issues that prevent safe access for everyone within the school's "walk zone", such as a lack of sidewalks and a very dangerous intersection with no traffic light.

After taking a "walking field trip" along the route walkers and bikers currently take, and studying the safety issues, students will work in cross-grade level groups to analyze and create solutions to the problem.

In May they will make present their conclusions to the Lake County Commission.

"Through many years of teaching, I've learned that students often arrive at solutions that adults miss" says Kreiling. "Perhaps the students can be the catalyst for change that will make Pine Ridge a true neighborhood school."

Students met with Mike Woods of the transportation planner for the Lake-Sumter Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) this week to discuss ideas and solutions.

Pine Ridge students use STEM skills to analyze and propose solutions for safe walking access to campus
Students will use their STEM training to study the problem and formulate solutions based on their research. Teacher Whitney Kreiling notes that students often see things adults miss. (Photo by Susan Schommer)
Students gather for a field trip to study the walking and biking conditions to their school. The walking route for most of the students contains no sidewalks and traffic light at the busy intersection just blocks from the school. (Photo by Susan Schommer)
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