Learning about Active Transport

For a PDF version of this resource please download: LearningaboutActiveTransport

What is active transport?  What impact to travel choices have on the environment?  Why choose active transport? What can we do to support active transport choices?  What factors influence our choices? This inquiry learning topic gets students thinking about all these questions and what they can do as individuals, members of a school community and of the broader community.  It encourages them to consider the roles and choices of individuals as part of the democratic process.  It also looks at critical thinking and objective vs subjective information.


Environment and Sustainability:


  • enhancing the school environment
  • conserving energy
  • establishing environmentally friendly practices


  • managing the environmental effects of transport services


  • climate change
  • energy consumption
  • the sustainability of resources

  • Interdepenence
  • Responsiblity for Action
  • Sustainability
  • Critical Thinking

Learning Areas:

  • Social Science
  • English
  • Health
  • Maths

The Learning Journey

Students are challenged to consider the impact of their transport choices, as well as the factors influencing them.  By analysing current school travel patterns, and comparing them to national and historical averages and trends they can see the links between individual choices and national trends. By combining data, research and their own experiences, students can examine the enablers and barriers to making active transport choices.  

Students are then able to apply critical thinking skills to media coverage relating to active transport and schools.  They can then compare and contrast their own research and experiences with what they have read.

Taking action could be done by focusing on individual or school choices; or more broadly by understanding the role of the individual in making and changing laws that infuence societal choices and behaviour, and choosing their own action to be part of this process.

Student learning outcomes

Students will:

  • Define active transport and understand its applications and benefits
  • Collect and analyse data about their own school/class travel patterns and compare this to national trends
  • Consider the options available for travel to school and factors influencing choice of mode
  • Consider their choices and behaviours with respect to active transport, and the collective impact of individual choices
  • Critically evaluate a media story about active transport, the arguements for and against and draw their own conclusions
  • (Optionally) Review how laws are made and changed and how individuals participate in this process
  • Develop their own communication on the topic: audience, mode, message
  • Learn concepts of influence and control, and objective vs subjective.

Learning about Active Travel

Set the scene

Define active transport and identify active transport modes.

Discuss why active transport is beneficial (health, environment, etc).

Find out what is happening at school

Collect information from the student group / class / school.


  • Make a chart showing transport modes and ask each student to mark the chart with how they came to school today.  This could be done for a single day, or over the course of a preparatory period if more than a snapshot is sought.
  • Using a map and different coloured pins or dots, get each student to mark where they travel from in the morning (home location) on the map, using a pin colour to represent how they got to school.  Analyse the data: how far are students travelling? does distance impact mode choice? what other factors influence e.g. hills, busy roads, river or railway crossings etc.

Compare and contrast this information with national trends from Census at School and NZTA (see resources).

Examine the issues (in the school context)

Examine the topic using research and analysis tools/techniques

The next section can be done in several ways.  


  • Ask each student to investigate their journey to school on the Travel Planner website, and document their findings: what alternatives are available to them, the costs of each alternative ($$, emissions), the benefits each alternative (calories burned); ask them to identify more subjective costs and benefits of each alternative.
  • Ask students to identify the barriers to using active transport modes; categorise and prioritise which ones have the greatest impact on their choices.
  • Examine links / relationshiips between distance/where students live/travel from and their choice of transport mode.  Examine this in relation to the school enrollment zone (if there is one).
  • Collect information about the schools travel plan and any existing data on travel choices.  Compare and contrast this with the data collected in the classroom.  Identify opportunities for promoting active transport and/or improving the plan.
  • Interview / survey other students for their travel choices and factors influencing them; determine the greatest influencers.

Some of these activities could be completed working in groups: when the students have collected information / completed their investgations have them report back on their findings, bringing all the ideas and learnings together.

Discuss the following:

  • What factors influence transport choices?
  • How does the environment (distance, landscape, traffic, school policy, availability of parking, school crossings etc) influcence transport choices?
  • Do students and parents understand the benefits of active travel and does this influcence their choices?
  • What impacts do indivduals (students/parents), the school, the community, the council and the government have on transport choice

Learning opportunities

  • Is there any conflicting information?
  • Is there any information that does not make sense?
  • Are there recurring themes?
  • Where do they think the statistical information comes from?
  • How have travel patterns changed over time? why?
  • What are the implications of what this tells us?

Examine the Issues in a National Context

Critical Thinking and the Media

A: Kids are driven to school

Review the article:


or a similar story.

Discuss / Reflect:

  • What is the purpose of the headline, why do you think it was chosen?
  • How has emotion been used in the story?  Why?
  • How have subjective and objective information been used? To what purpose?
  • Is the article balanced?
  • What do you think about the issue?  Do the information and ideas presented match with your experience?  Do you need more information?  Where could you get it?
  • How could you have your say?
B: Should Children be allowed to cycle on the footpath

Review the article:


or for a different approach, the TV story:


Discuss / reflect:

  • What is the purpose of the headline, why do you think it was chosen?
  • How has emotion been used in the story?  Why?
  • How have subjective and objective information been used? To what purpose?
  • Is the article balanced?
  • What do you think about the issue?  Do the information and ideas presented match with your experience?  Do you need more information?  Where could you get it?
  • How are laws made and changed?
  • How can individuals influence this process?  How could you have your say?

Reflective thought and action

  • Use the ideas from the initial discussion about the benefits of active transport to reflect on factors infuencing our choices
  • Discuss the idea of what things are in our circle of control and what things are in our sphere of influence.
  • Ask students to think about these questions in relation to using active transport in their trips to school:
    • If I was in charge of my family what would I change?
    • If I was in charge of my school what would I change?
    • If I was in charge of my council/town etc what would I change?
    • If I was in charge of my country what would I change?
  • Ask students to consider what options are available for them to take action?
  • Develop a plan of action (see action planning process below).

Things to think about:

Important ideas that can be explored as part of this activity are:

  1. Many factors influence our transport choices.
  2. Knowing something is good for us / good for the environment may not be enough, on its own, to change behaviour.
  3. Indivudal choices impact our collective experience and quality of life: traffic, polution, use of fossil fuels.  It is estimated that 20% of traffic during school pick up and drop off times is attributable to kids being driven to school.  How could you work out the impact of this:
    1. How many school children are there in New Zealand
    2. What portion of them are driven to school
    3. What portion of those could use active transport
    4. What would the savings be: emissions, traffic congestion, health benefits
  4. We can make choices to change our own behavioiurs and we can influcence the policies, ammenities and laws that impact our choices.
  5. The right choice doesn’t have to be a hard choice: short trips can take less time by walking or cycling than driving.
  6. We can spend money without realising it (how much does it cost to run an extra car / drive those extra trips, what could it be used for instead).
  7. Our perceptions of barriers do not always match reality:
    1. Weather: look at actual number of rainy days in a given month for an area
    2. Time: use journey planner or google maps to work out time required to cycle or walk vs driving (and parking!)

Examples and Ideas

  • Examples of Issues:
    • Traffic around school
    • Safety concerns related to walking and cycling
    • Distance / out of zone enrollments
    • Impact of before and afterschool activities and care programs
    • What other factors impact choice?
  • Examples of Visions:
    • To promote walking school bus and bike trains
    • To measure and reward active transport use
    • To engage in road safety education
    • To request a school safe speed zone
    • To request designated cycle and walking routes to school
    • To declare a day a week / month focused on active transport use (e.g. Walking Wednesdays)
    • To set up poi where students are picked up and dropped off away from the congested school zone
  • Examples of Actions (to achieve the vision):
    • Surveying the school community: How do students get to school? What barriers stop then from using active transport? What enablers would they make use of?
    • Writing letters to local councils and regional authorities requesting support in enacting their visions (speed zones, safe routes to school, school travel planning assistance etc)
    • Petitions
    • Posters
    • Reward programs
    • Promotion of existing facilities / programs e.g walking school bus
  • Examples of skills:
    • Defining terms; researching active transport in local and national context
    • Collecting and analysing data: subjective and objective
    • Comparing and contrasting, indentifying trends
    • Analysing causal factors, brainstorming solutions, prioritisation
    • Communication: audience, purpose, form.
  • Examples of information sources:
    • Local council or regional authority: school travel planners
    • NZTA Website
    • District Health Boards (those who promote active transport)
    • Statistics / Census data (including census at school)
    • Journey Planner website (can be used to measure distance, cost and carbon emissions of different transport choices)
    • Other Websites (see list at end)
  • Examples of people to consider:
    • Other students and teachers
    • Principal
    • Board of Trustees, PTA/Home & School committee, community members
    • School neighbours
  • Examples of criteria that could influence our decision:
    • School policies
    • Laws and by-laws
    • Community committement
    • Learning
    • Meets the issue identified
  • Reflect on change. May include:
    • Follow up survey to see whether travel patterns have changed
    • How can we make people more aware of the issue and our action(s)?
    • Did our actions meet our vision?
    • Did our actions impact on the issue we identified?
    • What do we need to do next?


Weather: https://weather-and-climate.com/average-monthly-Rainfall-Temperature-Sunshine-in-New-Zealand
Benefits: http://www.nzta.govt.nz/assets/resources/research/reports/359/docs/359.pdf
Benefits: http://www.transport.govt.nz/assets/Import/Documents/RaisingtheProfileWalkingCyclinginNZ.pdf
Ministry of Health Information http://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/healthy-living/food-and-physical-activity/physical-activity/activity-levels-new-zealand
School Travel Plans https://education.nzta.govt.nz/resources/school-community-partnerships/school-travel-plans
Walking and Cycling Journey Planner http://www.journeyplanner.org.nz
Google maps is an alternative.
Western Australian school resources http://www.det.wa.edu.au/curriculumsupport/physicalactivity/detcms/navigation/teaching-and-learning-support/choose-active-transport–k-7-/?oid=Category-id-11385798
Sport Otago Resources http://www.sportotago.co.nz/active-transport
BikeWise Resources https://www.bikewise.co.nz/resources/resources-schools
A very comprehensive source of ideas and resources!
Census at school http://new.censusatschool.org.nz
NZTA 25 Years of Travel http://www.transport.govt.nz/assets/Uploads/Research/Documents/25yrs-of-Travel-Summary.pdf
News article http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/77228882/the-school-that-cycles-and-the-school-that-bans-bikes
Health benefits article http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-simply-moving-benefits-your-mental-health-201603289350
News article http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/parenting/77094297/Editorial-Lets-make-it-safe-for-our-kids-to-foot-it-home-from-school
News article http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/parenting/77015108/twice-as-many-kids-now-driven-to-class-at-risk-to-their-health-and-safety.html
Note, the start of the article is quite emotive / tragic, but it goes on to provide some good and useful objective information.
Cost model https://www.dunedin.govt.nz/services/sustainability-education/cost-of-travel
TKI Action Planner http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/Curriculum-resources/Education-for-sustainability/Tools-and-resources
TKI Action Oriented Approach An-action-oriented-approach.jpg
From appendix 5: http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/Curriculum-resources/Education-for-sustainability/Tools-and-resources/Guidelines-for-Environmental-Education-in-New-Zealand-Schools

Talking about Subjective vs Objective information:

Learning about Active Transport: Subjective vs Objective Information
Subjective vs Objective Information

Circles of Control and Influence

Learning about Active Transport-Circles of Control and Influence
Circles of Control and Influence

More: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/12NhKBV-p21j9S6EbnweOSyyltwrvJYFpSsMSNynyS0g/htmlpresent?hl=en

Foster the role of ‘active stakeholder’

The following extract is taken from: DOC Presentation – Effective approaches to connect children with nature; by Carla Wilson. For the entire presentation see: http://www.doc.govt.nz/Documents/getting-involved/students-and-teachers/effective-approaches-to-connect-children-with-nature.pdf

There is a lot of research on the importance of children and young people being encouraged to become active stakeholders in the environment and decision making, particularly from the middle childhood years (6–12 years old). Researchers have referred to the need for children to have ‘belief in their capacity’, be optimistic about the future, and con dent that they can make a difference.

There is much critique of approaches that simply seek to inform children and young people about environmental issues in the hope that this will lead to responsible action. Many researchers instead advocate for an approach that focuses on empowering young people through developing knowledge and understanding for decision making; planning and taking action; participation; emotional response; and critical thinking and reaction and develops a sense of personal and civic responsibility.

The purpose of this approach is for students to learn how to be active participants in society. Connecting young people to the environment in this way is described as developing young people’s ‘action competence’.

In order to be active participants, researchers have emphasised the importance of fostering children and young people’s ‘locus of control’:

Variables most closely correlated with environmentally responsible actions are perceived skill in using action strategies, level of environmental sensitivity, perceived knowledge of action strategies, and locus of control.

The ‘locus of control’ refers to the ‘sense that they have the ability to influence the outcome of a situation’ and can help children and young people develop a sense of empowerment and personal responsibility. Research has found that ‘internal locus of control’ is the core variable for improving the intention to act for responsible environmental behaviour. Therefore, it is important to stimulate the internal locus of control by:

…encouraging people to make their own decisions about problems and critically evaluate the opinions of others and by providing opportunities for people to apply action skills successfully.

NZ Curriculum Links: Learning areas

Social Sciences

Understand how groups make and implement rules and laws.

Understand how people make decisions about access to and use of resources.

Understand how formal and informal groups make decisions that impact on communities.

Understand how people participate individually and collectively in response to community challenges.

Understandings in relation to the achievement objectives can be developed through a range of approaches. Using a social inquiry approach, students:

  • ask questions, gather information and background ideas, and examine relevant current issues
  • explore and analyse people’s values and perspectives
  • consider the ways in which people make decisions and participate in social action
  • reflect on and evaluate the understandings they have developed and the responses that may be required.


Listening, Reading and Viewing

Authentic purpose, writing for an audience, persuasive writing, different modes of communication.


Statistical investigation

Conduct investigations using the statistical enquiry cycle:

posing and answering questions

gathering, sorting and counting, and displaying category data

discussing the results.

Statistical literacy

Interpret statements made by others from statistical investigations and probability activities.


Personal health and physical development – A

Students will:

A1 Personal growth and development

Describe feelings and ask questions about their health, growth, development, and personal needs and wants.

A2 Regular physical activity

Participate in creative and regular physical activities and identify enjoyable experiences.

A3 Safety management

Describe and use safe practices in a range of contexts and identify people who can help.

Healthy communities and environments – D

Students will:

D2 Community resources

Identify and discuss obvious hazards in their home, school, and local environment and adopt simple safety practices.

D3 Rights, responsibilities, and laws; D4 People and the environment

Take individual and collective action to contribute to environments that can be enjoyed by all.