Artwork by Susan Wehelie of Dunlap Elementary, Seattle 2011.

Connecting the creativity of students in Washington to solutions for safer passage on our roadways.

For 10 years (from 2005-2015), the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition and the Washington State Department of Transportation hosted an annual Bridging Futures contest that tapped into the creativity and knowledge of students of all ages in Washington.

For the first 8 years we issued a call looking for creative elementary students (grades K-5) to participate in the Bridging Futures Art and Essay Contest. The Bridging Futures Contest helped us educate the public about the importance of protecting both drivers and wildlife on our state’s highways, while getting creative solutions to issues surrounding wildlife and roads from students. To participate in the contest, students created drawings that show how wildlife can safely cross highways. Students also submitted a short essay explaining their drawing and answering the question: Why is it important to consider animals when designing highways?  We used a helpful lesson-planning guide.  Great ways to start a dialogue with students including asking questions like:  How do wildlife know when it is safe to cross the road, and how do animals know where to cross?  What kinds of animals live in Washington that are trying to cross the roadway?  What could we do to make it safer for both the animals and drivers?   We’ve seen some amazing ideas over the years – from wildlife crossing guards to fish ladders.  See the entries in our 2011 and 2012 contests.

Top 5 finalist, Hunter Printz, dropping off his 3D model for the contest.

Top 5 finalist from 2013 contest, Hunter Printz, dropping off his 3D model for the contest.

In 2013 and 2014, we changed the contest to reach out to Washington high school students as the Department of Transportation began design to build our state’s first wildlife overpass in the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project.  We asked the students to submit designs for this overpass along with an essay describing their design considerations. We received 3Dmodels, computer graphics, posters, and presentations and winners received small college scholarship awards.

In 2015 as we prepared for the upcoming groundbreaking of Washington’s first wildlife overpass on I-90 and the Washington State legislature’s passage of a transportation bill that fully funds the 15-mile I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project, with a final year of Bridging Futures that engaged students of all ages on social media with #ihearti90wildlife. We asked youth from 5 to 18 to submit artwork depicting the wide diversity of species waiting for safe passage on this new wildlife overpass.  Awards were made to the Peoples Choice, Most Creative, and Best Classroom entry as well as the best entry for groupings of species from amphibians to mammals.  See all the entries from the contest on our #ihearti90wildlife Facebook page.

A few of the entries from our 2015 Bridging Futures: #iHearti90Wildlife social media art contest.

Each year we have enjoyed the enthusiastic engagement from the students, teachers, and judges that participated as well as the innovative new ideas that emerged.  The I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project is richer for the engagement of so many in such creative ways.

Governor Christine Gregoire awarding one of our 2012 Bridging Futures winners with their teacher and parents.

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