With schools around the region expanding summer school offerings, the BikeWalkKC Education Team has even more opportunities to teach young people Bicycle Lessons and Safety Training (BLAST). In a recent session at Lakewood Elementary in North KC, students received three weeks of bike safety education and riding practice.
Our instructors spent the first 5 days teaching 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders BLAST basics: bike handling, rules of the road, stopping, signaling, and maintaining your lane. They also taught 6 kids how to ride! Jill Iwanski, Education Coordinator at BikeWalkKC, says, “Because we were able to work with kids for a more extended period of time, we wanted to take the kids out in the neighborhood to experience some real-life situations, and discuss the more nuanced components of road riding.” Among the three classes, students logged nearly 25 miles on neighborhood streets and trails, where they learned important lessons about using hand brakes and minding road hazards. Jill reports, “These kids were determined and considerate and so intelligent in the ways that they could think critically to determine how their behaviors affected not only their safety, but the safety of everyone else out on the road.
P.E. teacher Matt Tomlin also noticed how biking together affected the students’ interpersonal skills: “…It develops an easy social atmosphere for our youth to build relationships with their peers. I watched BikeWalkKC establish relationships and build confidence in students at Lakewood in just a short period of time. Students who don’t normally shine in an everyday PE class, were gleaming with pride and feeling success after working with the instructors. The development and process of building up a person’s self-worth is what makes biking an important skill for our youth.”
Support from the grown-ups was key to the students’ success. According to Jill Iwanski, “The kids were incredibly enthusiastic from the very first day, and as the programming went on, it was clear that their interest was reinforced by a PE teacher that saw real value in what they were learning (and came on every neighborhood ride with us!) The students were also thrilled to show off their biking skills to the school principal…” Adult participation and support makes a big difference in student achievement, and we were pleased that Mr. Tomlin and Principal Brandon Greason joined us!
Many thanks to the students, parents, and staff at Lakewood Elementary for championing healthy living at their school. We teach BLAST because we believe that children who learn to love bicycling will grow into adults who embrace active transportation, and through connected communities, cleaner air, calmer streets, and healthier neighborhoods, that will make the world better for all of us. We have no doubt that these young riders will grow into adult leaders!
Grown ups can also support youth bike safety by advocating for safe streets in their community. Become a member of BikeWalkKC, join the mailing list, and contact your councilperson— we have the power to create change!