For the first time, Lawrence Public Schools is able to offer the Bicycle Lesson and Safety Training (BLAST) program to all fourth- and fifth-grade students as part of its physical education curriculum.
In four classes, students learn about proper helmet fit, rules of the road, bicycle safety checks, road hazards and how to safely navigate through an intersection. Some students learn how to ride a bike.
Reenie Stogsdill has been a PE teacher for 25 years and has never been able to teach bicycle safety until now. Thatís because the school district received 60 bicycles thanks to funding from a Partnerships to Improve Community Health grant through the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department and a LiveWell Lawrence Community Wellness Grant through the Douglas County Community Foundation.
"It has been awesome to have that many bikes to use," said Stogsdill, PE teacher at Langston Hughes Elementary School. "Our bike racks are generally full now. It was never like that before we started doing this curriculum."
Christy Hunt, PE teacher at Broken Arrow Elementary School, also is excited about the program. "I think it’s very important that children learn to be safe on their bikes, and this is one way that they can do that in school."
The BLAST program is part of the Safe Routes to School initiative, which encourages students to walk and bike to school.
The benefits include:
- Students who walk or bike to school are healthier.
- Physical activity before school helps children arrive focused and ready to learn.
- Students who walk and bike when they are young are more likely to continue these activities into adulthood.
- When walking or biking, parents and children get an opportunity to bond and connect with their neighborhood.
- Fewer cars on the road means less traffic and congestion and cleaner air.
"If we want students to be healthier and perform better in school, we want to give them every opportunity to move," said Safe Routes to School Coordinator Michael Showalter, a Health Promotion Specialist at the Health Department. ìIím really excited that every student will have the opportunity to learn how to ride a bike safely."
Matthew du Toit, a fifth-grader at Langston Hughes, said his parents taught him how to ride a bike just before the classes started on bike safety. "I wanted to be prepared," he said.
Through the classes, Matthew said he learned how to properly use hand signals and about potential road hazards such as sand or wet leaves. More importantly, he learned the ABC Quick Check: Air, Brakes and Chain. "That’s how you check to make sure your bike is good for biking," he said.
Matthew said he enjoys bicycling because "it feels good and gets the energy out."