A developmental milestone: Millbridge bike program teaches kindergartners to ride

Published 12:01 am Thursday, December 29, 2022

CHINA GROVE  — Learning to ride a bike is a hallmark moment for young children, and thanks to a new program at Millbridge Elementary, every kindergarten student will be given that chance.

Starting next year, and through a partnership with the Strider Education Foundation’s All Kids Bike Learn-to-Ride Program, Millbridge Physical Education teacher Jocelyn Shuping will integrate an eight-part instructional course into her lesson plans.

“I am excited to incorporate this program to supplement our P.E. curriculum for years to come,” Shuping said. “Most of all, I look forward to the sense of accomplishment, confidence, and enthusiasm shown by our students during and after their participation in this program.”

The program provides a fleet of 24 14-inch Strider training bicycles to Millbridge.

“What appealed to me was when they gave the statistic that 54 percent of kids don’t know how to ride a bike,” Shuping said. “As the P.E. teacher, I am thinking about how we can incorporate this into the P.E. program. This is something I think all kids should know how to do. Riding a bike is a big skill, a developmental milestone and a skill they can have their whole life.”

Lisa Weyer, the Strider Education Foundation executive director, explained how the instruction works.

“We do not promote training wheels,” Weyer said. “With the (Strider) balance bikes, kids learn how to ride a bicycle in eight lessons.”

The program has a full training curriculum for instructors within an online portal. All instructors are required to go through that training before teaching the students how to ride the bike.

“(When the program begins,) the students start out in balance mode,” Weyer said. “The kids learn how to walk with their feet and learn how to stride. Then, eventually, we ask them in the lessons to lift up their feet and learn how to balance. That is the key to learning to ride a bicycle.”

During that step of the learning process, there are no pedals on the bikes.

“In lesson six, we attach pedal kits,” Weyer said. “By then, they know how to stride and how to balance, so it’s very natural to put your feet on the pedals and start pedaling. By lesson eight, they know how to ride a bicycle.”

Timetables for course completion can vary from school to school. The program is already in 800 schools across all 50 states. “Typically, it is done in a matter of eight weeks,” Weyer said.

Weyer indicated that feedback confirms what they hope for with each program. “What we hear from teachers that use our program, learning to ride a bike, gets the kids excited,” Weyer said. “They don’t miss a class when they are in use.”

It is also helping in their studies.

“We have heard from teachers that their students focus better when they are in the classroom, knowing that they get to ride a bike,” Weyer said. “It takes some of their energy, so they are calmer during the academic class period.”

Perhaps most importantly, Weyer explained that it helps build students’ confidence. “It has all kinds of side effects,” Weyer said. “When they realize they can ride a bike, they have that ‘I did it’ moment, which is very important to kids.”

The Strider Education Foundation was started in 2017. Weyer described their mission as making sure every child had the opportunity to learn to ride a bicycle.

“We then developed the idea of, well, how do we do that, and it was decided that if we could make it part of a curriculum,” Weyer said. “We start in kindergarten because that is the first introduction to the school system. Our bikes last anywhere from 7-10 years in that setting, so we have the opportunity to teach 7 to 10 years of kids to learn to ride a bicycle.

Shuping indicated that the program was only possible with the help of Millbridge Elementary’s parent-teacher association.

“I was able to go to the P.T.A. and ask about what kind of funding they could provide,” Shuping said. “With the program, there is the option to crowdsource. We have a really active and very helpful P.T.A. They are really involved in doing a lot of fundraisers throughout the year. They were on board for the program immediately and provided all the funds to get this program started at Millbridge. It was about $6,000. Helmets are provided. There is a bicycle for the teacher as well, so I can follow along the program with the students.”

Shuping anticipates the program will start in January.