Colored pencils instead of computer keyboards, coloring pictures instead of number-crunching and reading e-mails — employees who normally do everything from manufacturing trucks to participating in important meetings are steering a toy Bobby Car today in the MobileKids Workshop. It’s clear that when 30 employees sit down on a toy car instead of putting up their feet at the end of a working day, the Daimler MobileKids initiative must have something to do with it.
The second MobileKids Workshop was recently held at the Mercedes-Benz Customer Center in Sindelfingen. The workshop series allows interested employees to train to become MobileKids Ambassadors who take the knowledge they gain to their children’s schools to teach kids there how to stay safe among the traffic on the street. The idea for the workshop/ambassador program originated with employees themselves, as Thomas Schlößer from Corporate Sponsoring/PR explains: “Most people at Daimler know us because MobileKids has been around since 2001. However, at some point, employees began asking us if we would be interested in using our teaching materials to support parents committed to keeping children safer on streets and roads.”
First theory, then practice
Katharina Rinck, who runs the workshop, is an elementary school teacher and former police officer. She begins the workshop by telling participants, “I’m going to activate you today”, since the focus here is to get participants to try things out for themselves — which is exactly what they’re going to get children to do later on. After all, today’s participants are already familiar with traffic regulations — that’s why the workshop focuses on teaching methodology. The idea is for participants to play a lot of games and perform practical exercises that enable them to take on the role of the schoolchildren they will later teach, and in this manner identify the best ways to pass on their knowledge.
However, just like the process for obtaining a driver’s license, you need to understand the theory before you can put your methodology into practice. That’s where the MobileKids curriculum modules come in. These modules more or less correspond to elementary school grades and thus get more complex as participants work through them.
Arts and crafts, followed by driving Bobby Cars
Module 1 is meant for the youngest schoolchildren and focuses on the topic “See and be seen”. Bright clothing is very important, especially after dark. Participants realize this at the latest when they take a look into the “Dunkelkammer" (dark room). After that, they are asked to color sketches of T-shirts using colors that are easily visible, as well as those that are difficult to see.
Module 2 — “Crossing the street” — is designed to teach children how to stay safe on the way to/from school when unaccompanied. Here, a game known as "Verkehrsraupe" (traffic caterpillar) is played with orange cones and crosswalks that simulate a street scene. Those who wish to can put their Bobby Car driving skills to the test here as well. Participants take on the role of vehicles and pedestrians and maintain eye contact with one another, and in this manner decide together on who has the right of way etc.
The previously mentioned “Dunkelkammer" (dark room) is actually a shoebox with peepholes through which a paper figure wearing bright clothing can be seen on one side. If you look at the figure from the other side, it is wearing dark clothing and can therefore barely be discerned.
Afterwards, the participants creatively apply what they’ve learned: Their task is to color a worksheet with sketches of T-shirts using colors that are easily visible and those that are difficult to see.
The “Verkehrsraupe" (traffic caterpillar) game allows some participants to reexperience their childhood.
Katharina Rinck explains some things about bicycle components: “According to road traffic regulations in Germany, children’s bicycles are not bicycles at all but instead toys! That’s why most of them do not include all key bicycle components.”
“The man at the back of the picture is talking on the phone while driving!” - Participants identify prohibited behavior/actions in the “Wimmelbild” (hidden object picture) — a richly detailed picture teeming with subjects.
Each MobileKids module first addresses theory before moving on to hands-on practical application.
Impressive personal commitment on the part of employees
Two “pedestrians” talk about why they participated in the workshop: Elke Dolinsky and Bianca Balling dedicate a great deal of their free time to the issue of traffic safety, particularly as it pertains to safe travel to and from school. “There are two ways for kids to go to school in the area where we live, and neither of them are really safe,” says Elke Dolinsky, whose son will soon be starting school. “That’s why I’m now planning to launch a petition to make the route to school safer for children.” Bianca Balling’s children have already finished school, but this has done nothing to diminish her commitment to safety. “I was on the parents’ board for a long time,” she says, “and it wasn’t that long ago that our school moved to a new location. People thought about all kinds of more or less important things before the move, but safety on the route to and from school wasn’t one of them.” Balling therefore plans to continue working on safety issues at the school her children used to attend — and the workshop seems like an effective way to prepare for this. “I’d like to assist teachers in addressing this issue,” she says. “I’ll soon be examining the area around the school with the principal in order to identify the safest routes — and the mayor will also be joining us.”
MobileKids exercises become more complex with each grade they’re used in
Like back in school, there’s a short break before the workshop continues with Module 3: “Riding your bike”. The first part of the module is theoretical and addresses the components of bicycles that are suitable for use in road traffic. After that, participants are asked to take a close look at a children’s bike to see which of these components are included and which are not.
Once they’re done with that, Katharina Rinck introduces Module 4: “Being a road user”. The theoretical part here consists of a text to be read by the children. “After all, fourth-graders are already experts in this!” Then comes the practical part, in which participants look for dangerous or prohibited behavior/actions in a “Wimmelbild” (hidden object picture). They discover, among other things, a man crossing the street when the traffic light is red, and a child riding a bike in the street.
Passing on knowledge to schoolchildren
Once employees have completed the workshop, they’re ready to pass on the knowledge they’ve gained to children in elementary schools. To this end, they serve as MobileKids Ambassadors who provide teachers with helpful tips and also play an active role in traffic safety instruction by participating in special events, project weeks, and even regular classroom instruction. The participation of the MobileKids initiative is very welcome. “The kids are always thrilled to see us whenever we visit a school,” says Schlößer. More than two million children have been reached by the MobileKids program since it was launched in 2001.