Back to School…bike49’s first presentations

by Sara Dykman

Adventure is not just about traveling to exotic places or conquering a distant peak.  Adventure is dipping your feet into anything new.  When I first got excited about bike49, it was because of the adventure of biking new roads and speeding down new hills.  What I didn’t know when I decided to tackle bike49 was the adventures of planning, creating a lesson plan, and networking with teachers.  While biking, the triumph of getting to the top of a hill, after pouring all you have into the climb, is one hell of a reward.  Walking out of our first classroom last Monday, it was like I had just climbed a very long hill and was finally seeing the view of all my hard work.  “My goodness” I thought “We actually pulled that off”…

tommy at big lagoon

Tommy after our first presentation

And how did we know we pulled it off?  After speaking with a class of second graders in Arcata, we were thanked with their “special clap” and a girl in the front row presented us each with a plastic gem off her necklace.

But let me back up. Two years ago, when bike49 came to be, we decided we wanted to incorporate an advocacy element into our ride.  We wanted our adventures to be for ourselves and for our community. I looked back into my past and recalled the guest speakers of my youth, their stories, and their photos of exotic animals and distant reaches.  We decided it was our turn to share our stories and photos with the next generation of students.

I spent the winter talking with teachers about my lesson plan.  Despite the thousands of hours I have spent in school, I needed a lot of help. My cousin, Molly, and my high school science teacher, Mr. Lockard, were amazing resources.  I couldn’t have done this without them.  By the time I was done, I had developed a lesson plan with eight centers; letting the teachers choose three to four of the centers that were best suited for their class. I then contacted superintendents on our route, networked with friends and family, and submitted articles to a few bicycling magazines.  Soon after, I began to schedule presentations.

Our first school was in Big Lagoon, CA. We biked the 30 miles there rehearsing our opening presentation and reminding each other what we wanted to cover in our centers.  We were nervous, but excited as we didn’t know exactly what to expect. Things went smoothly and the teacher was incredibly helpful.  She helped facilitate our introduction by asking some great questions.  She had already broken the class into three centers, and helped keep track of time so that each center was 15 minutes. The students were receptive, asked tons of questions, and their applause launched bike49.

dream bike

A 2nd graders dream bike

After this week, we will have presented to four schools.  We have tried out all but one of our centers.  Drawing your dream bike has been a great success.  It is wonderful to see that the students can come up with.  Already, I have seen bikes with tread capable of moving over anything; flying bikes with rainbow wheels; bike umbrellas; and bikes bombing down the world’s largest hill.  What else will they come up with?

Global Solutions, a center aimed at brainstorming solutions for some environmental problems we have seen (and photographed) on our route was challenging yet successful.  We concentrated on exploring solutions that students are already practicing; solutions that they can try immediately; as well as larger scale solutions that involve more organization.

Unpacking a fully loaded bike was a great way for students to understand that we are carrying all of what we need except food on our bikes. Eighth graders couldn’t believe how little we needed, especially when it came to clothes.  Second graders loved trying out our camp chairs, hearing our ukulele, and ringing our bike bells.

The most difficult audience was the eighth graders. The center I lead was “Passenger Miles per Gallon” where we calculate the passenger miles per gallon of different modes of travel, and then convert this into sandwiches per mile (It would take 60,000 PB and J sandwiches to power a single occupancy car along our entire 15,000 mile ride).   At about minute nine, I had exhausted the sandwich/gasoline comparison and was trying to keep the students engaged with questions.  Each question led to a side conversation that I desperately tried to steer back to sandwiches and biking. Though the last six minutes were a bit painful, the students seemed to be learning.  Before we left, the teacher asked the class what they had learned. One young man said he was surprised at how efficient a city bus was when full.  Another said he was surprised that cars can run off sandwiches.  Well, it was a start…

dream bike 3

Even in the rain, this dream bike stays dry.

So our four trips to schools were as much a learning process for us as it was for the students we talked to.   We decided to shorten our centers from 15 minutes to ten minutes.  We bulked up our introduction presentation in order to explain what bike touring was and how we bike tour.  We even were able to create a 30 minute power point presentation, and used it to talk with over a hundred seventh graders in our first assembly. The experience was a great reminder about how important it is to learn from everyone we meet.

And on Sunday we start the actual bike ride.  No more talk of starting bike49; no we will just be on bike49.  And we will continue to learn from the students we meet on our trip.  We will continue to hone in on our presentation, and become more and more effective.  Our next school stop is Myrtle Point, OR in just a few days.  Yes, with only a day until kick off, we can rightfully say “we have finally reached the top of the planning adventure hill”.  As we look to the horizon, its onto the next adventure.

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