Teaching through more than a presentation

by Sara Dykman

Before this trip we knew we wanted to share our experiences with school kids, but we didn’t know how it would work, if teachers would be interested, or even what exactly we would talk about.  Our goal was to speak at 25 schools, and now, with 11 states to go, we have spoken at 44 schools and given our 45 minute presentation about 90 times.

I am very happy with the progress of our presentation.  It is a surreal experience to be in front of a class room talking about a project that we just had an idea for and made happen.  We have had very positive feedback from both teachers and students.  Sometimes a kid will come up to us after a presentation and share his/her idea for a trip of their own, or thank us for coming because they have always wanted to see an animal or habitat we talked about.  One of my favorite experiences has been with a school we have not even pedaled to yet, Delaware Ridge Elementary School, in Kansas City, Kansas.

My cousin, Molly, is a first grade teacher at Delaware Ridge Elementary.  A few months after she helped me create bike49’s lesson plan, I got an email from her that was one of the most exciting emails I have ever received:

… I’ve spent the weekend thinking about my class and Bike49 and have decided to plan most of the next school year around biking.  I want to get kids on bikes, experiencing the world through bikes, and participating in a community of bike riders…

She teaches at an Expeditionary Learning School that strives to connect lesson plans with real life, hands on learning.  This year, her first graders are learning about maps and navigation, leadership skills for a successful community, and ways to help the environment through projects involving bike49.

Their introduction to bike49 was through a bike49 immersion day.  The first graders lived the life of bike49 for one day. They showed up to school with backpacks packed with maps, water, packed lunches, and journals.  The kids went on a walk through the neighborhood, navigating with their maps just like bike49 does.  Back at school, the students learned about camping gear (headlamps, water pumps, cook wear), set up tents, and collected firewood.  They also made bird feeders for the birds as their way to give back to their communities, just like bike49 does by speaking at schools.  Then the kids ate their lunches and fixed healthy snacks, just like bike49 does.


Bike49 Day: the first graders head out on a walk, wearing bike helmets because bike49 does.

in the flowers

Getting exercise and exploring, just like bike49 does


Trying out the camping gear bike49 uses


Navigating with maps, just like bike49 does

Molly also has the kids read our blogs and bios and asks us questions about parts they don’t understand.  After reading our bios they now know the words sustainability, the west, and our college bicycle advocacy group Green Wheels.

We have now done two online, video conference calls with the class, and both have been a success.  Our most recent one was this week.  The students asked us questions about what we eat and drink to stay healthy, how we know what is healthy, how we plan our route, and what kind of bikes we ride.  After each question Molly had the class write down a summary of our answers.  This was also the first time we got to see a live performance of a song they had written about bike49.  It is an amazing song:

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I could keep going on and on about all the great ideas and projects Molly and her class have been up to this year.  They are writing a book about bike49 and what we do that other kids can read and learn from. They have drawn bikes and studied some of the history of the bicycle.  They even cooked some bike49 recipes that were full of vegetables.  Molly told me that they were all complaining about how they didn’t like vegetables.  She told them bike49 eats vegetables, so they gave them a try and enjoyed the veggie-bean burrito meal.


Showing off the "bike49" veggie nachos they made

Most of Molly’s stories convey to me the positive effect that practical learning can have on education.  These kids are learning about maps, community, reading, and writing, and because it has to do with bike49 it is exciting and applicable. To them we are really cool people doing something cool and they want to be a part of it.  They want to read our blogs because they want to know where we are.  They want to study their maps, to learn how close we are to their state and where Kansas even is.  They want to try new vegetables, get more exercise, read books, write in their journals, and help their communities because that is what we do on bike49.  Learning can be really exciting, and I am so happy and proud to be a part of Molly’s first grade class.

And more is to come.  We will be biking through Kansas City in mid March.  Besides visiting the school, we are planning a cook-out at the school, and an overnight camp-out for students whose parents are willing to camp too.  We will keep you updated on the first graders of Delaware Ridge.

If you are a teacher and want us to present at your school please feel free to contact us.  If we can’t make it to your school, but would be interested in us setting up a skype conference call, email us at bike49@gmail.com.  We are grateful to everyone who has made our presentation possible.  Thanks Molly for taking an idea, running with it, and making bike49 such a success.

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