Educators in the Walker area will soon be bringing new lesson plans focused on safe walking and bicycling into their classrooms with the help of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota (BikeMN) and their Walk! Bike! Fun! curriculum.
Many area educators are participating in curriculum training on extensive lesson plans with BikeMN Tuesday at Leech Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. This training will help them to teach children ages 5 to 13 how to be safe pedestrians and bicyclists through age-specific classroom lessons and activities, and on-the-bike skills practice.
The goal of this curriculum, which BikeMN created in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, is to build the students’ confidence with walking and biking and help them to stay safe, active and healthy.
“University of Minnesota Extension is excited to welcome BikeMN to Walker for the Walk, Bike, Fun Curriculum Training,” said Simon Whitehead, SHIP Coordinator, Cass County. “With our new bike fleet scheduled to arrive by next spring it is important that teachers and youth leaders are trained in teaching bike safety, and that students learn how to navigate our streets and trails in safe ways.”
Youth use the streets for bicycling every day. Yet roads can be hazardous and children are not formally educated to skillfully maneuver on the streets. With lessons from this curriculum, teachers will have what they need to teach students traffic rules and regulations, potential hazards, and skills needed to walk and bike safely through their community.
“It’s awesome to see teachers light up when they learn that children can be taught bicycle safety through on-the-bike activities while at school. These are safety skills that kids will use for a lifetime and will help them to become healthier individuals!” said Michelle Kiefer, Safe Routes to School Program Manager with BikeMN.
All students should be able to achieve physical fitness and independence in the community through participation in Safe Routes to School and other walking and biking activities. There is widespread concern about the general level of health and physical fitness of all today’s youth. Children with disabilities are at an even greater risk of underactivity than their peers, due to the many barriers to participation that they face. That is why as of fall 2018, the curriculum now includes integrated components featuring bicycle adaptations for students with disabilities, these additions were funded by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and created with support from the Minnesota Department of Health.
Studies show that children who walk and bicycle to school are more physically active, have improved mental health and lower odds of being overweight or obese than students who are driven or bused to school. Additionally, strong evidence connects physical activity to improvements in attendance rates, classroom behavior and student academic performance — including grades and standardized test scores.
The extensive road, and specifically on-the-bicycle lessons offered by this program are designed to increase bike ridership, physical activity, and safe and predictable riding among youth.
The Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota (BikeMN) is working to make Minnesota a place where bicycling is easy, safe, and fun for everyone. The mission of BikeMN is to unite and strengthen bicycle advocacy, provide education, and work for a more bicycle friendly Minnesota. Visit www.bikemn.org for more