Three years ago Jeff Little got a grant for nearly $10,000 and purchased 25 mountain bikes, helmets, and accessories. His school is one of the few schools in the area, and probably in the state of PA, that has a bike program at the middle school (6-8) level. They took the BTA curriculum and ran with it.
We reconnected after a webinar in which the BTA presented about our Safe Routes for Kids Curriculum and bike safety education programs for youth.
“It’s been a great addition to our PE department. The Snail Race and an obstacle course on steroids are two of my favorite on-bike activities. Having students teaming up to change flat tires is my favorite off-bike (rainy day) activity.”
So how did Jeff end up teaching the BTA’s youth bike curriculum as a PE teacher all the way across the country in Pennsylvania at Emery H Markle Intermediate School in Hanover?
We asked him!
Jeff: Actually I didn’t start teaching full-time until I was 57! Left my job as a retail manager after 22+ years and began substitute teaching (my original degree was in PE and my certificate was still good). Now in my 7th year with next year planned as my final year. Three years ago our team wrote a grant with Highmark, a health care provider. We didn’t find out about receiving the grant until late in the summer just prior to school starting, but we scrambled and ordered 25 bikes, 36 helmets, 8 wind trainers and various parts and accessories. The grant we received was for $9098 and we worked with a local bike shop who honored the prior year’s bike prices; Performance Bike Shop, who gave us a deal on the trainers, and an internet helmet company. Hanover is a small city (25k) surrounded by farmland two hours north of Washington, D.C.
This is a photo of me conducting a class on signaling with a group of 8th grade students. The local newspaper had sent a reporter and photographer to do a story on our bike grant and program!
BTA: Tell one of your favorite stories from your bike program!
Jeff: On my first day of teaching the bike unit that first year I was so excited and pumped-up I crashed in front of my 2nd period 8th graders. I had asked the question, “How do you steer a bike?” And most students responded “with your hands” or “the handlebar”. I tried demonstrating how you steer with your hips and weight shift and then promptly fell when trying to make a turn “no-handed.” I’ve not done that demonstration since and require all my students to keep one hand on the bars at all times! One great response I got when I explained that the right hand turn signal came from the time of early cars and they didn’t have something originally (turn signals) that required the driver to put their arm out the window and crook their arm to signal a right turn. A sixth grader offered this response: “It’s for when a driver doesn’t have a passenger to signal the right turn from the passenger side.” I felt that student put great thought into their response!
BTA: What are some of the curriculum modifications that you implemented?
Jeff: We get about 3-4% of our riders that cannot ride a bike at all. We take our smallest bikes (13” frame) and lower the seat all the way to the frame and then have the students practice coasting down a slight incline to get comfortable with their balance. Then we progress with adding a foot and pedaling and progressing from there. We’ve had great progress in getting students to ride on their own! Unfortunately, these students have to work on their own for most of the class. We have one PE teacher for each class of 20-25. Sometimes we’ll have an additional teacher or another student to work with these beginning riders.
Last year we bought a 20” wheeled bike for the few students that are just too small to ride our regular bikes. I plan to use this also as a balance bike for students to improve their comfort level. This year our school district bought a trike and a set of add-on trainer wheels to meet the needs of our adapted students. We have not used any of these yet as they came late in the fall. The district also plans to buy a hand cycle for next school year.