2nd graders in DC are learning to ride bicycles

Thanks so much to my friend David for posting this article which he is quoted in! Feels great to read about one of my high school peers being part of a feature article about DC’s new program to teach 2nd graders to ride bicycles.

Second-grade students at Walker-Jones Education Campus this week are learning a new alphabet: The ABC’s of bike safety.

“Air! Brakes! Chains!” they yelled to “Mr. G,” their physical education teacher, after he showed them how to inspect their bicycles for potential problems.

Dressed in orange vests and bright blue helmets, the students climbed onto Diamondback Mini Viper BMX bicycles and began to pedal. Some careered around a course set up in the gymnasium. Others did not get past the starting line.

The program is designed as one way to make gym class more practical and less focused exclusively on sports.

The unit also reflects efforts across the country to make physical education classes more accessible and useful, with less focus on competitive sports and more attention to healthy lifestyles and fitness habits.

Riding a bike seems common to me, but there are many kids who don’t have access or aren’t taught.

Daniel Hoagland, an education coordinator at the Washington Area Bicyclist Association who has taught bike safety courses in D.C. schools in recent years, said he encountered “surprisingly high numbers of kids” who did not know how to ride, especially in schools serving poor neighborhoods.

He also teaches adults to ride and has heard various reasons why people don’t learn as children. Some had a bad experience early that caused them to abandon the effort, and some come from other countries where bike riding is not common or easy to do. Many said their parents did not know how and never taught them.

D.C. school officials said they chose to introduce the skill in second grade, in part because the curriculum emphasizes coordination and balance. It’s also an age at which children aren’t afraid to fall, Kenyon said, and at which enough students already have learned and can help teach their classmates.

“We decided second grade is a foundational year,” said David Gesualdi, a physical education teacher at Walker-Jones. “A kid needs this experience before second grade, and if they don’t receive it by this age, we are going to provide it.”

The students learn bicycle safety, including how to wear a helmet, how to use hand signals and other rules for riding safely on city streets or paths.

In the District, the unit is four weeks long. The classes meet only once a week for about 50 minutes, but Gesualdi said he hopes to extend the unit by a week or two and plans to make the bikes accessible at other times for students who want to practice. At the culmination of the course, he is planning a six-mile ride around the city.

This is an area I don’t dabble much in in the education field, but I am sooo proud of my high school peer!!