It’s not every day that you get to indirectly teach more than 4,000 public school students how to ride bikes safely, but last week, WABA’s youth education staff was lucky enough to do it for the second time. Youth & Family Education Coordinator Jeff Wetzel and Programs Director Daniel Hoagland were part of the team that trained and prepared more than 75 DCPS Physical Education teachers last week.
For the DC Public School system, the Biking in the Park program was something of a risk. But Director of Health and Physical Education Miriam Kenyon was unfazed. Here’s the recipe: Take six dozen teachers, every last second grader, 1,000 bright blue bikes, over 100 volunteers, and add wary administrators, warier parents, and the wildly unpredictable state of DC’s street and sidewalk infrastructure. Then shake it all together for a year, and see what happens.
The result? Kids rode bikes. A lot. Some learned how to ride for the first time in their lives. Others learned how to ride in a group, how to ride on sidewalks or streets, and how to look after one another on a bike ride. In short, the program was an overwhelming success. So when WABA was asked to help get the DCPS teachers ready for year two, we jumped at the chance.
We shared our best helmet-fitting and obstacle-course tips, and demonstrated how to arrange and manage a youth group ride. We helped them find the answers to each other’s questions, and we encouraged them to share the things they learned over the course of the first year.
The teachers–some of whom hadn’t been on a bike in decades prior to the program–were eager to get back to work. They told us about kids who said the bike riding lesson was their favorite school experience ever, and about parents who have dug their own bikes out of garages and basements after their kids came home full of enthusiasm for riding.
DC Public Schools’ Biking in the Park program is ongoing during the school year. Every second grader will get a chance to participate in five lessons that build skills and confidence before going on a half-day field trip by bike. Schools throughout the District are looking for volunteers to help ride with the kids all year long. If you’re interested, please contact Elizabeth Pandaya with DCPS.