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Last fall, Mountain Home Mayor Hillrey Adams attended the NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling Association) race that was hosted at Clysta Willett Park. During the event, he asked a race official how to promote the sport of cycling in our area, and the official told him to focus on teaching children a love for the sport.
“He told me a little about Strider Bikes and how they offer programs for young children to learn to cycle first by balancing and then by adding pedals,” Adams said. “It sounded interesting to me, and then by coincidence the next weekend I was out of town with my wife, and we walked by this bike shop that sold Strider Bikes. We ended up buying one for our granddaughter on the spot, and after seeing one in person, I knew this was something worth looking into for our local kids.”
Adams mentioned the bikes to Mountain Home Kindergarten Principal Kevin Roach who had already heard about the bikes and was very interested in implementing the program in his building.
Through a partnership with the Mountain Home Education Foundation and local donors Jerry McDonald and Joe Schmuecker, the Kindergarten PE teachers were awarded a teaching grant to purchase a class set of the bikes. “Joe and I were happy to donate the funds to the MHEF to purchase these bikes,” McDonald said. “It’s so important to promote physical activity to young people, and this seemed like a great opportunity to teach our Kindergarten students the lifelong skill of cycling. We know that not every child will develop a love for the sport, but at least they will all get exposure and gain confidence, which is important for everyone.”
After the bikes were ordered, PE teachers Jill Daves and Roddy Patrick spent time in professional development courses to learn to implement Strider’s Learn-To-Ride program. Patrick noted that introducing students to as much balance and skill development as possible is essential. “Implementing the bike program is, in my opinion, one of the best programs available to accomplish this,” he said.
Daves said that while many families introduce their children to bikes at home, not all children have that opportunity, and this program levels the playing field for all students. “I believe all children should learn how to ride a bike by the time they finish Kindergarten, no matter their social or economic background, no matter how busy their parents are, or even if they have yet to be inspired to learn,” she said.
The bikes arrived in January, and the district’s maintenance department created a storage system for the bikes in the PE closet. After several hold-ups due to winter weather, the program kicked off in late February, and students have already begun learning how to mount and dismount and how to glide while balancing. “Some students are ready for pedals, so we plan to outfit about half of the bikes with their pedals over spring break,” Patrick said.
Jennifer Seaman, executive director of the Mountain Home Education Foundation said this type of project is ideal for a teaching grant. “Projects that can be passed down to students from year to year are a perfect fit for the foundation’s mission, because numerous students are impacted by the initial grant funding,” she said. “I have loved seeing progress pictures and videos of how much the students have learned after just three weeks. I look forward to this project continuing for years to come.”
For more information about the Strider Foundation’s All Kids Bike program, visit allkidsbike.org.