Designed as an educational scavenger hunt, St. Clair, Pa.-based Schuylkill Transportation System (STS) recently took children throughout Schuylkill County on a free tour of the community.
The idea for the event came from Mike Micko, executive director, STS, during one of the agency’s marketing meetings. This was the fourth year STS offered the scavenger hunt.
The objective of the event is to get kids familiar with using transportation to connect with their community. Additionally, while there are several colleges in the area, making it important to have young people learn to use the transit system for when they become college student commuters, Micko noted that many children will eventually move out of the area when they grow up and attend a college or university in a larger community where they will have to depend on public transit to get around.
“It gives them an idea of how it oper-ates,” he said. “The first year it was a success. Our participants loved it,” Joan Breslin, marketing and service support coordinator, STS, said. “And we’re already looking forward to the fifth [next year].”
Thirty-seven students between the ages of 11 and 15 attended and 16 community businesses signed on as sponsors, including a pizza shop owner and a local dairy. Sponsors provided lunch, gift cards and other items for the gift bags all students took home as rewards for answering the scavenger hunt questions. In total, local sponsors contributed about $1,300 to the project.
“This was the best year we had as far as participants,” Breslin said. “We tried to keep it to a maximum of 10 [students] per bus route.”
Students boarded buses on four different fixed routes and toured area businesses and points of interest, such as a shopping mall, the YMCA, a museum and a couple secondary education schools.
“The kids were excited,” Breslin said. “The YMCA lets the participants try out the basketball [court]. They also learn that they can get to these fun places by using our buses. Here at STS we feel that the younger the students are that get on the buses, the better it is for the whole community.”
Students are taught how to read a bus schedule, etiquette on a bus, and how to signal a driver to let them know they want to board a bus.
In addition, the students learn many facts about the history of and architecture in their community. The students set off on the scavenger hunt in search of answers to about 35 historical and “fun fact” questions about Schuylkill County. An STS employee with an answer key accompanied each student group.
STS used a variety of buses from its fleet, including Gillig low-floor and Champion buses and a small Ford vehicle, Micko said. STS’ fleet consists of 14 fixed-route vehicles. Breslin added that the tour showed the students that “every vehicle is not going to be the same, and the driver isn’t always going to be the same, either.”