Two CCSD schools introduce cycling into everyday curriculum

St. James-Santee PE Teacher Blake Stewart instructing scholars before their ride

Research says that students who exercise and remain physically active throughout the day are more motivated and engaged. They tend to do better in the classroom, too. Educators at St. James-Santee Elementary-Middle School are ensuring that their students have every opportunity to do just that.

St. James-Santee received a fleet of 26 mountain bikes from The Specialized Foundation’s Riding for Focus cycling program last summer. The school was chosen as a recipient of the foundation’s grant for Fall 2019. The program integrates cycling into the physical education curriculum as a means to help students achieve academic, health, and social success.

At St. James-Santee, there is a heavy focus on increasing programs and options that focus on encouraging healthy lifestyles and physical activities. Audra Pinckney attended an in-person training session hosted by The Specialized Foundation staff to ensure success as new schools integrate the program into their classrooms this fall. Pinckney is the instructional coach at St. James-Santee and is excited about the program’s potential benefits to learning.

“The specialized biking curriculum addresses issues of focus, depression, struggles at school, etc.,” said Pinckney. “We use the curriculum in a personal way. I say, ‘if you are having a hard time, today can you outride your struggles’. This really motivates the students. By the time they ‘outride their struggles’ the students are laughing and smiling and ready to tackle the day.” In addition to the mental and academic benefits, the curriculum teaches the students basic bike safety. The students are responsible for making sure their bike is safe to ride by conducting the basic ABC bike check (air, brakes, chain and cranks). They each have their own helmet and they’re learning how to reach their target heart rate and how to check it.

“We sometimes take for granted that a student knows how to ride a bike,” said Pinckney. “In some cases they don’t. So this is a great way to provide them with a new experience.” Daily lessons send students peddling through various obstacle courses. There are days when the lessons center on riding etiquette, decision making, and best practices. The students are learning about eye contact with vehicular drivers and who might have the right-of-way. What started as beginner lessons inside the gymnasium, to riding around the parking lot and then on the nearby trails, will culminate into a final lesson of road readiness.

At the end of each school year, local law enforcement will join students on their final trek. The bikes are built to last five or more years. Pinckney plans to add to the fleet annually so as to increase the number of students she can reach through the program. “The kids love it,” said Pinckney. “They have learned so much and some have had an opportunity they probably would have never gotten.”

Deer Park Assistant Principal Ricardo Robinson was instrumental in obtaining the Riding For Focus Grant this year as well as last year at St. James Santee.

Additionally, Deer Park Middle School is excited to announce that Deer Park Middle School will be participating in Outride’s Riding for Focus program starting in the Fall of 2020 school year. This is the second school in the district to participate in the program. St. James Santee Elementary Middle School will begin their second year.

More than 143 schools and 33,000 students across the country are already benefiting from the Riding for Focus program. Deer Park Assistant Principal Ricardo Robinson was instrumental in obtaining the grant this year as well as last year at St. James Santee. “I am very excited about being the second school in the district with the program,” said Robinson. “I look forward to the potential partnerships and impact that Riding for Focus could have on Deer Park.”

The Riding for Focus program uses cycling as a tool for children to achieve academic, health, and social success. Students enrolled in the Riding for Focus program will have access to a fleet of bikes, helmets, maintenance equipment, and the Riding for Focus curriculum.

“I am thrilled that Deer Park has been afforded this opportunity,” said Principal Shanitra Deas. “I’m excited that our scholars will have the chance to learn a new skill and embrace challenges and adventures. It’s a great opportunity to allow our scholars to put their futures into focus.”

In addition to weekly riding, students will complete a dedicated curriculum created through a partnership with Central Michigan University. Riding for Focus provides a combination of cycling, fitness, and academic performance, all while instilling a lifelong passion for cycling for students who participate. Additionally, the program explores and tracks how cycling can positively affect student learning, health, and socio-emotional well-being.

The goal is to establish a sustainable school cycling program that will help students succeed, as well as grow and connect the community.

For more information, visit the Riding For Focus website.

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