(Photo courtesy of Metro)

Santa Monica residents are getting ready for the arrival of the Expo light-rail in May, and part of getting ready means learning about train safety. And what better way to raise awareness about how to stay safe on and around the Metro than to start with the youngest members of the community?

At least that is the idea behind a contest the Santa Monica Police Department is holding in conjunction with the Santa Monica-Malibu School District and the Los Angeles County Metro. The contest, open to Santa Monica students grades 4th – 5th and 6th – 8th, will allow youth to create posters featuring their original artwork and train safety tips for a chance to have them displayed citywide.

Lead crime prevention coordinator for the SMPD, Lauralee Asch, said the police department developed the contest as a creative way to spread train safety facts throughout the community.

“The whole community is learning about the train and how big a change it is to our community,” Asch said. “This contest will make it fun for school age children to learn about train safety and will try and engage them in a different way than we engage adults.”

SMMUSD community and public relations officer, Gail Pinsker, said the contest is allowing the school district to support the city and Metro in sharing train safety messages with students, parents and staff.

“The poster contest is a great way to share the safety message while encouraging participation to gain an even deeper understanding of the powerful train beginning regular service here in May,” Pinsker said. “We are looking forward to seeing the winning posters and sharing the messages designed by students, with their peers.”

Asch said that Metro has been doing outreach in local schools to cover train safety points in presentations and assemblies, which should give students a starting point for their entries into the contest, and Pinsker said the district has welcomed their presence.

“We appreciate the efforts of Metro and City of Santa Monica to help make sure our students are safe on and off campus, follow all laws and understand the importance of following train safety as they walk, bike, or as for some of our high school students, drive to school or around Santa Monica,” Pinsker said.

According to promotional materials for the contest, potential safety topics to include in entries include: paying attention to signals, always watching for two trains, knowing that gates coming down means a train is coming, keeping your head up, and never walking on train tracks.

Asch said the school district helped decide the two categories for the contest: 4th – 5th grade and 6th – 8th grade. Each category will have a grand prize winner and a runner-up.

The entries will be judged on originality, creativity and artistic expression as it demonstrates the safety theme. No glue, glitter or three-dimensional objects are allowed on the 11 x 17 posters, and no computer generated entries will be accepted.

The teacher and classroom of the selected winners will receive up to $100 in donated art supplies from the art store Blick. The submission deadline for the contest is March 18 and all entries will be submitted through classrooms.

Asch said the winning posters will be put up in City Hall, where the children and their families, as well as the public can see their artwork. She said it might be possible to display all the participating posters, depending on how many entries are received.

“But all the winners will be promoted through social media, giving them created for their participation and their great efforts,” Asch said.