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29/02/2016 – Smarter Travel and Children

“I can taste the rain” is the beautifully evocative title of a book on Smarter Travel produced in collaboration with young children from Dungarvan, Co. Waterford.  Published by Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership, a company which publishes books for children, by children, this lovely book is the result of a series of creative workshops through which children shared their experiences of journeys made by foot or bike.

Interestingly, it avoids the traditional narrative structure of a typical adult discussion on the pros and cons of walking and biking and instead presents the children’s accounts as a series of captivating vignettes. As a result there is a powerful sense of the children’s perspectives which affords readers quite a profound insight into children’s everyday lives.

During the workshops a group of artists worked with the children to explore movement; “through spaces and environments; observing and talking about things we saw, felt and heard in the outdoors…”  In one workshop children were encouraged to take their bodies for a walk – and off they set, life size paper cut-out of their bodies in tow! The energy they have and the fun they share is infectious as they take off “hopping like a bunny”, running really fast, skipping, hoola-hooping, off to the pond, the beach, or round the block.

Asked what their preferred mode of transport to school would be, 45% said cycling. This isn’t that surprisingly given the freedom bicycles afford them, or as one child says; “You love going downhill cause all the breeze goes in your hair”. But sadly only 5% of the children who participated actually cycle to school regularly.
They describe their outdoor experiences vividly; “I saw a dump truck”, says one child, “it went dun, dun, dun, DUN!” While another exclaims; “DUCKS! I saw a duck!” Some experiences are quite poetic; “Birds, a bridge, some water and seaweed. A house, a mountain, the sun, some clouds. It’s kind of cold”.  All sorts of nature feature – berries, butterflies, bugs, birds, leaves, flowers, conkers and mooing cows. 

The children all share a highly sensory encounter with the outdoors from the smell of the air to the taste of the rain and the feel of the wind, the tingle of a ladybird crawling on a small hand, the heat of the sunshine and the cold of the sea.  Everywhere they look the children spot flowers of all colours, peering so closely they even notice; “some nectar round it. Some of it is yellow and some of it is red and I really love it”.

The richness of the experiences the children describe as they walk or cycle their journeys is probably the best argument anyone could possibly make in favour of choosing Smarter Travel. As one of the children says; “I was having fresh air. It was so nice, I didn’t want to leave”.

I can taste the rain: thinking smarter about our journeys
, by children from Dungarvan Co. Waterford is produced in association with Go Dungarvan, Waterford Childcare Committee, Waterford City and County Council. It is available from Kids’ Own publishing Partnership priced €8.50.