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A bit of flash, safety dances its way into arts

Posted: Friday, January 21, 2011

Reflectorsaurus — a big green and yellow reflective dinosaur — and a few Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School students are busting a move to the Safety Dance after school these days.

Juneau Empire
Juneau Empire

The dinosaur — a mascot of the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities’ Safe Routes to School program — and students from DZ’s Wearable Art Club will be dancing to the tune of safety at the upcoming Wearable Art Show.

The art club students are not only busy with choreography, but also are pushing the sewing machine pedal to the floor designing outfits that feature reflective gear for the show, which is Feb. 12 and 13.

Claire Murphy, outreach specialist with Safe Routes, is teaching choreography to the group with the Safety Dance — by Men Without Hats.

The club, which is led by life skills teacher Jodie Buck and art teacher Miah Lager, has several students who are looking to participate in the Juneau Arts and Humanity Council’s Wearable Arts Extravaganza, but the group involved with Safe Routes to School will have a bit of a different role.

Murphy said the student role isn’t quite ironed out yet, as the Wearable Art Show has had more applicants than ever and the number of participants allowed in the actual contest may be limited, but they anticipate being the “crowd pleaser.” Murphy said they should be doing the Safety Dance before the Sunday show and will be handing out reflector key chains, bringing increased awareness about safely walking or biking to school.

Lager said students are working on different projects in the club, but several have signed up for the art show, and is excited that the Wearable Art Show is gaining popularity.

Lager said Safe Routes to School asked if they would participate in bringing awareness to the effort to get more students walking and biking to school.

Murphy said encouragement and education is a huge part of the program, and they’ve noticed junior high and high school students aren’t really interested in reflective wear or helmets. She thought this would be a fun way to show students how safety gear can be fun and cool.

“With this Extravaganza theme being “Illuminate” we were immediately drawn to the idea of working with students to promote the message of reflective safety and fashion,” Murphy said.

Murphy said her department’s goal is to increase the number of children walking or biking to school — as nationally only 15 percent of students do. Murphy said the biggest hold up is the concerns parents have for safety. Visibility is one issue, while supervision is another.

Safe Routes will be working on promoting Walking School Buses in the spring — which is an organized group of volunteer adults who walk specific routes to schools with students. Murphy said there are some parents who already do a little of this in Juneau, however Safe Routes would like to see that grow.

“That’s one of the big projects working on right now, working with the GIS (Geographic Information System) agency ESRI, they have curriculum already you can teach to pretty much all ages middle school on up,” she said. “We can have (students) do a project, map their neighborhoods where they walk and bike, make a map on the school web site that could be interactive and parents could sign their students up online.”

Murphy said they have come up with an Alaska Safe Routes logo, which will be printed onto reflective vests for volunteers to wear when doing the walking school bus. This program is being implemented throughout Alaska (Safe Routes started in Europe and spread to the U.S.), but the online route mapping in Juneau would likely be the pilot project for the state.

For more information on Safe Routes to School, visit www.saferoutespartnership.org. For more information on Alaska’s program, visit www.dot.state.ak.us/stwdplng/saferoutes/involved.shtml. For more information the Wearable Art Extravaganza, visit www.jahc.org.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.



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