Tracy Tiernan guides Mount Vernon Community School students along a bicycle course.
A collaboration between Alexandria City Public Schools and the Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) gave third, fourth, and fifth grade students a chance to turn Mount Vernon Community School students into the city’s youngest cyclists. Students were brought outside to a course where they rode through an obstacle course, learning to use their brakes, how to turn, and other basic bicycle safety skills.
“The kids love it,” said Michael Humphreys, health education instructional specialist for Alexandria City Public Schools. “We have a couple very capable teachers kicking it off. It’s another creative form of activity. As physical educators, our job is to expose kids to as many different kinds of activity as we can. We look for things that train the heart muscle in hopes that something sticks for years to come.”
The program is partially funded from a $5,000 grant but $7,000 was raised by BPAC, with an ultimate goal of raising $10,000 for the project. In total, Humphries said the schools were able to secure 35 bikes and 40 helmets.
Tracy Tiernan and Kristin Donley are the two teachers leading the program at Mount Vernon Community School.
“It’s been a learning process,” said Tiernan. “It’s been wonderful. ”
Tiernan said when the program got started, a little over one-third of the students didn’t know how to ride a bike at all. Now, only around two youngsters in each of the classes are still uncomfortable on the bikes. But the benefits for the students have also extended beyond learning how to ride.
“For some of my students who had discipline issues, this helps focus them,” said Tiernan. “They want to be a part of the program and they know they have to be on good behavior. We’ve seen less behavior issues from the kids.”
Humphries and Tiernan both said Jim Durham, vice chair of the BPAC, was a big part of pushing for the fundraising and helping this program happen. According to Durham, BPAC is currently accepting donations to try and expand the project to James K. Polk Elementary School in 2017.