Bikes and Bytes, the mountain biking course, was launched in the spring with help from the Outride Foundation, which aims at improving social, emotional and cognitive health of middle schoolers through cycling.
Teachers Emily Kohner, English and language arts, Andrew Nelson, science and health, and Brian Stenberg, PE, and others applied for the Outride grant, which provides middle schools with mountain bikes, safety curriculum and training. In return, schools are asked to monitor student success and provide data to the foundation.
“The foundation shares that data with university scholars who are studying the impact of cycling on school performance,” Kohner said.
“The foundation also contributes to other aspects of the research into the effect of cycling on brain state.”
Students take the semester-long class in their first period.
“Biking provides an outlet for kids during their day and, as my class is first period, it is a chance for them to start their day with some fresh air and exercise,” Nelson said. “We had a wide spectrum of abilities in our first group of Bikes and Bytes students and each kid was able to take ownership over his or her learning and make the class meaningful.”
Nelson recalls a generally quiet student excel in the class by taking on the wooden obstacle course until they were able to maneuver it flawlessly.
“It’s great seeing kids who aren’t normally engaged in school with a smile and excitement learning new skills,“ Nelson said.
Students begin by learning about safety and basic bicycle maintenance. Next, they learn how to start and stop, avoiding obstacles and other basic riding skills.
“At Wy’east we work hard to encourage a growth mindset. Often in PE kids either have a skill or they don’t and as we strive to teach them and help them grow, we as teachers may only see a slight increase over the course of a unit or school year,” Stenberg said.
“One thing that was so cool about the bikes is you could see, every day, students’ skills growing, and more importantly they saw it too.”