Everybody everywhere has places to go. You'll be amazed at the innovative methods people use to get around. Looking at the different ways people travel helps people better understand how to solve local transportation problems.
Transportation Around the World
Why do you think people might use different ways to get around? Do you think weather would make a difference? If you live someplace that's covered in snow a lot, which do you think you'd ride: a bike or a dogsled? If you lived in the desert, would you ride in a boat or on a camel? Here are some of the different ways people use to get around in foreign countries:
In Thailand, people ride around in tuk-tuks, three-wheeled motorized vehicles with room for a driver in front and two to three passengers in back. The samlor is like the tuk-tuk, but it doesn't have a motor and is pedaled like a bicycle.
In Venice, Italy, many roads are actually waterways. People ride in boats called gondolas, steered by a gondolier who stands at the back. Gondolas are like taxis, but they go on water instead of land. A larger boat that acts like a bus is called a vaporetto. These large boats hold many people and have certain routes and stops throughout the city.
In Southwestern Asia, people use a horse-drawn carriage called a tangah. The carriage has two big wheels and is attached to the horse with two long bamboo poles.
In China, transportation forms are changing rapidly. Some people still ride in rickshaws or velotaxis around the cities. A rickshaw is a two-wheeled carriage that seats one or two people and is pulled by one strong person. A velotaxi is similar but is like a large tricycle that moves by pedaling.
Use the Internet to learn about more forms of transportation around the world or check out the book Transportation from the Around the World Series by Margaret C. Hall. Have the students explore options and choose their favorite. They can draw a picture of themselves riding their favorite one and label it with the name of the vehicle and the country where it is primarily used.
Most people use private transportation, like their own cars. Public transportation is when a larger vehicle has a set route and is open to everyone at a set cost. Public transportation is very useful in big cities, where thousands and even millions of people have to get around all day long. It benefits people who may not have the money to have their own car or simply don't want to have one. It also has a smaller environmental footprint per passenger because more people are using one vehicle. It lessens traffic jams by keeping cars off the road. Public transportation includes buses, trains, subways, trams, trolleys, and ferries.
Here are some more interesting public transportation systems from around the world:
Shanghai, China, has one of the only operating magnetic levitation trains, or maglevs. It is a high-speed train that is suspended and guided along a track using magnetic forces instead of wheels. Maglevs can reach speeds nearing 600 miles per hour (similar to an airplane)! Countries all over the world are exploring opportunities to build their own maglevs.
Aerial tramways, also known as cable cars, carry people high above the ground or water in small cabins attached to large cables suspended high in the air. Maybe you've seen small ones used at tourist sites, but there are also larger ones used for public transportation. The Vanoise Express cable car carries 200 people per cabin at a height of 1,250 feet over the Ponturin gorge in France. There is also the Roosevelt Island Tramway, which can carry up to 125 people and connects Roosevelt Island to Manhattan.
Personal rapid transit systems are one of the most efficient and convenient forms of public transportation. They consist of small cars that can hold two to three people and run on elevated tracks through cities. They are completely computer controlled, so traffic jams are impossible. They run on electricity and there is no schedule or fixed route. Passengers select when and where they want to go and only need to go to a station where vehicles are waiting. These systems are currently in planning or construction phases in several locations in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Middle East.
Explore your own local public transportation. The following activity outlines a train trek, but you could easily substitute a transit bus ride or trolley — whatever is available to you. How often do you see trains? Trains are a great environmental choice and their quality is continually improving.
In most parts of North America, kids don't have much exposure to trains. To appreciate the value and Earth-saving aspects of traveling by train, a short adventure from one end of town to the other and back would be an inspiring experience.
Prepare for your trip by studying about the history of trains. You'll find an abundance of information about train history for kids online, including short quizzes.
Check out your library for books about trains so students can draw pictures of their favorite type of train. Is it the engine, a coach, or a freight train carrying new automobiles? Cut them out and attach them to each other on a bulletin board in the classroom.
Add a map-reading session to your preparation. Determine how many miles you are going to ride and then determine how many miles that would be if each family in the class drove that distance instead of riding on the train.
Prepare train travel notebooks in advance for the kids to take notes about the trip. For example, they could list at least ten interesting things they saw while traveling on the train. Be sure to keep track of how long the trip takes and to find out how fast the train is traveling.
Again, even if you don't live by a train, adapt this project to any sort of public transportation. When you return to the classroom, have each student share the ten things they saw. Keep track on the board. Were there things that many students noticed? Were there things that only one or two students saw? Did they think riding on public transportation was more fun than a car?