By Kacey King
Big graphics are an integral part of many cityscapes these days. But creating brand awareness isn't the only use for oversized imagery. In St. Louis, superwide graphics are part of a simulated cityscape that is helping children learn how to avoid life-threatening dangers on city streets. The cityscape is part of the hands-on, interactive "Safety Street" program developed by St. Louis Children's Hospital to help reduce the rate of preventable accidents among children.
Because children are constantly surrounded by traffic-related dangers, St. Louis Children's Hospital (SLCH) teamed up with education specialists at Harris-Stowe State College to create the curriculum. To develop the simulation, hospital officials turned to Paradowski Graphic Design, a firm specializing in strategic visual communications for corporate identity and marketing communications.
The SLCH "Safety Street" program debuted in May 2002 and consists of six, 20-min. classroom sessions covering topics such as pedestrian safety, stranger safety, and pediacycle (bicycle, scooter, skateboard, and in-line skate) safety. The children learn how to navigate streets safely and to be aware of cars backing out of alleys and how and why traffic lights change. They also learn why it's important to let caregivers know where they are, and avoid abandoned lots and buildings.
Once the classroom portion of the lesson is finished, trained adult volunteers lead children in groups of three through a visually appealing, 26- x 69-ft cityscape, which combines printed fabric backdrops, a vinyl graphics street, and 3D props such as cars and traffic lights. During the cityscape walk-through, the lessons taught in the classroom are reinforced with "real-life" simulations, including a motion-activated "stranger" voice and timed streetlights for the mock-cars "driven" by adult volunteers.
According to Jane Gumersell of Paradowski Graphic Design, the cityscape design has won rave reviews for its realistic details. The graphics comprising the cityscape's walls were reproduced from photographs of neighborhood houses and were printed by The Composing Room, a St. Louis-area graphics-production firm. The Composing Room used an 80-in., VUTEk UltraVu 2360 solvent-system inkjet printer to output the graphics on an oxford-type cloth from Thortel/Ibena. The "streets" were printed on ICG/Holliston Saturn vinyl, then coated with a matte-finished liquid laminate from Triangle Coatings to help the graphics remain scuff-free and easy to clean.
Other elements of the cityscape design include synchronized traffic lights and railroad crossing arms, reverse lights on the model cars, and the sounds of an ambulance siren.
A customized trailer with built-in storage transports the cityscape from school to school. The pieces include three mat sections weighing 130 lbs each and street light bases weighing 70 lbs each. It takes six people four hours to unload and assemble the entire cityscape structure, which is wheelchair-accessible and requires an electrical source. Once assembled, the structure accommodates all of the kindergarteners and first- and second-graders in the participating school district.
Paradowski Graphic Design: www.paradowski.com.
St. Louis Children's Hospital: www.stlouischildrens.org.
The Composing Room: www.composingroom.com.