In the fall of 2019, the Distraction-free Life Club (DfLC) at Eden Prairie High School embarked on a mission to engage elementary school kids in discussions about distracted driving. We called the initiative Drivers-in Making and kicked it off with a two-hour workshop. At the end of the session, we gave the 6- through 11-year-old kids markers and crayons and asked them to draw sketches based on what they learned from the workshop. Looking at the sketches that the kids drew left us in total amazement. Not only they had registered what we showed them, but they also had an excellent grasp on distracted driving by calling it bad driving, a much simpler definition. We noted that they might not spell words correctly but surely know how to communicate. We turned those sketches into the Shreya R. Dixit Foundation’s 2020 wall calendar. The DfLC students sold it in the community as a fundraiser for their club and to spread the message of distraction-free driving in the community.

After the above success, the DfLC members designed another insightful workshop for elementary school students in collaboration with the journalism class at the Wayzata High School. Gamification, an educational approach that uses game elements to facilitate learning, will be used to instill good behaviors among 6- through 11-year-old kids. The workshop is scheduled to take place on April 18. Let us hope that the COVID-19 pandemic does not interrupt it.

At the workshop, teens will help young kids learn about distracted driving through intelligently designed age-appropriate video clips, games and stories developed by Eden Prairie High School-based Distraction-free Life Club and Wayzata High School teens. The coaching session will embed in young kids the ability to watch for distractions as they ride, not only in the car they are in but also in cars passing by them. Kids will learn how to respectfully question inappropriate driving behavior when they see it. The ultimate goal of the session is to build a solid foundation for a future distraction-free driver. Each kid will take home an esteem-building artifact that will help them spread the word about distraction-free driving.

The Center for Research and Outreach Lab at the University of Minnesota has consented to work in collaboration with our foundation’s peer-education program. It will assess how the engagement between teens and young kids may influence attitudes and behaviors.

For additional information for this workshop, please email vijay@shreyadixit.org or check for details at edenpr.org/epcommunityed. The program is open to all kids ages 7-11 years old. Non-Eden Prairie residents are most welcome to register.

Please write to Vijay Dixit of the Shreya R. Dixit Memorial Foundation at vijay@shreyadixit.org. His phone number is 612-759-3384.

Melissa Turtinen is the community editor for Lakeshore Weekly News and Eden Prairie News. She's passionate about adding context to stories and informing people about what's going on in their community. She enjoys being outside, traveling and good beer.

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