PE teacher kicks off fundraiser to bring learn-to-ride program to the rural school
BONANZA – Jason Hardrath is always looking for a chance to teach new skills to his Bonanza Elementary School P.E. students.
His classroom features a 12-foot high, 40-foot wide rock climbing wall. In addition to the traditional P.E. activities, his students learn climbing techniques and how to ride skateboards. There is a mountain bike fleet for older students, and even unicycles for those looking for a challenge.
His newest venture: A learn-to-ride bicycling program for kindergarteners.
“Each year when we begin our bike unit for the older students, there are several students who have never learned to ride,” Hardrath said. “As they get older, this is a more difficult thing to overcome emotionally and physically.”
Bonanza’s P.E. program is raising money to buy a fleet of bicycles for its youngest students – specifically strider bikes that teach riders balance before pedaling. So far, the All Kids Bike fund-raising campaign has raised about $1,200 of the needed $6,050 to purchase 30 striders, helmets, pedal conversion kits, and curriculum. All Kids Bike is a national movement to set up kindergarten P.E. learn-to-ride programs in public schools using donations from businesses, community members, and organizations.
Strider bikes are bikes without pedals, and riders start by sitting on the bike and using their feet to move it forward. Once a child can run along, balance, and steer the bike, pedals are added.
“It is backwards from what we’ve done in the past with training wheels, where kids learn the pedaling first and then the balance,” Hardrath said. “But what experts have found is that kids learn at younger ages and much more quickly by learning the balance and steering first and then the pedaling. It creates a safer environment without the fear of falling so you get kids who learn to fully pedal a bike by the time they’re a first-grader.”
Bonanza is among several KCSD elementary schools with a fleet of mountain bikes for fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders. The students learn bike safety and mountain biking skills. Field trips expose students to area trails. Schools also offer after-school mountain biking and triathlon clubs.
Hardrath said the learn-to-ride program for kindergarteners will ready students for more skilled riding as they get older. It also teaches a skill that is not taught at home as often as it was in the past.
“We’ve increasingly heard this generation referred to as screeners — they can live their lives digitally,” Hardrath said. “It’s convenient for parents to put a kid in digital environment because they can cruise
through the day without worrying about them getting hurt. The downside is we have middle school and high school students with no active outdoor skills whatsoever. No ability to ride a bike, no ability to ride a skateboard, no experience with hiking.”
Cost also can be a barrier as can a parent’s ability to ride themselves.
“You can only teach what you’ve learned. If you’ve never learned to ride a bike yourself, you can’t pass that on to your child,” Hardrath added. “That’s why I feel driven to bring this into the school environment.”
Thanks to community fund-raising efforts, Shasta and Henley elementary schools earlier this year purchased their own fleet of strider bikes with pedal kits for their kindergarteners. Kick-off events are scheduled for later this spring. To donate to Bonanza’s All Kids Bike program: https://support.allkidsbike.org/bonanza-elementary-school.