The joy is palpable and music is blasting as kindergarteners, smiles across their faces, bike around a square marked off with multicolored cones at Woodside Elementary School. Flashback to early April, and many of the students comfortably pedaling around the blacktop in May didn't yet know how to ride a bike.
That changed when Kathy Jones, a veteran lower school physical education teacher, introduced a new program called All Kids Bike to the 45 students in the school's three kindergarten classes. Thirty minute lessons were held twice a week for four weeks.
"They're still excited about it," Jones said after the program wrapped up for the school year. "There's something about the freedom of riding."
It's also fun for Jones to do something brand new. She has taught at Woodside Elementary for 31 years and some of her current students' parents were in her classes back in the 1990s.
Jones said the program promotes equity since it gives all students an equal shot at learning how to ride.
For $6,000, the district purchased 24 children's bicycles, a teacher bicycle, pedal conversion kits, helmets and access to a biking curriculum put together by All Kids Bike, a Strider Education Foundation program launched in 2018 to place kindergarten PE Learn-To-Ride Programs into public schools for free, using donations from individuals, businesses and organizations. It was a one-time cost and there are no ongoing monies required, other than to replace equipment as needed, said Woodside Principal Steve Frank in an email.
Last November, the programs were operating in 800 schools with more than 100,000 children impacted each year, according to the Strider Education Foundation website.
"The ability to ride a bike develops physical and mental well-being and instills confidence which can lead to better focus in the classroom," said Lisa Weyer, executive director of the Strider Education Foundation, in a statement. "Kindergarten is the perfect age to teach kids to ride a bike, focusing on gross motor skills, balance and coordination. By teaching bike riding at the entry level in a public school system, we are providing the knowledge and a positive foundation of a lifelong skill."
Curriculum includes teaching kids to look both ways when crossing a street on their bikes and weaving around cones.
There were some falls during the lesson The Almanac attended and Jones advised the students that "sometimes you're going to fall," but you get a bandage and ice.
"They got back up on their bikes and I thought that was so brave," she told one class.
Jones decided to launch the school's program in the spring, when kindergarteners would be more developmentally ready for the lessons.
Kindergarteners in the Las Lomitas Elementary School District will receive their own fleet of bikes through the program in June, which they will begin using in the fall, according to district Wellness Coordinator Nell Curran.
For more information on the program, go to allkidsbike.org.