The Cycling Skills for Life Program, often referred to as “School Bike Rodeos”, began in 2009. SD71 students have the opportunity to learn safe cycling skills for travelling on the roads in our community. Students come with a range of skills and volunteers accommodate them all.
By December 2018, rodeos had been held in each elementary school in SD 71 at least 3 times and more than 3800 grade 4 and 5 students had participated.
The program was spearheaded by Ed Schum who made the initial contact with the schools and trained the volunteers. For the last several years, the Coordinator position, critical to the success of the program, was held by Angela Dawson.
In the spring of 2019 School District SD71 showed its support of the program by funding a contract position for a School Bike Rodeo Coordinator. This financial support is essential for the continued success and sustainability of the program.
In October 2019 Sally Freeman was hired as the School Bike Rodeo Coordinator. Her role is to coordinate the program with the schools and the volunteers.
14 volunteers are needed for each year with 3 in the Fall and 4 in the Spring
Volunteers are always welcome for a variety of roles:
Julie Howell and Brenda Olinek are experienced volunteers with the Bike Rodeos. Brenda has recently also acted in the capacity of interim coordinator.
When asked why the experience has been such a positive one, Julie noted that the caliber of volunteers made them a pleasure to work with. She said, “I’m constantly amazed at the efficiency and dedication of the Coalition team, from set up to tear down. Tasks are assigned and executed with good humour and a sense of purpose. At the end of the day we all have a feeling of accomplishment as the trailer is loaded and the last of the granola bars are consumed. A camaraderie develops over the space of one day – both veterans and those new to the rodeos. We share our own cycling stories with each other.”
Brenda shared how rewarding it is to work with the students. She explained that the program is set up to teach students road safety skills and that a huge component of its design is to have fun learning those skills. That means fun for the student and fun for the volunteers. Brenda said that it is so rewarding to hear students say, “That was so much fun.”
Each student takes away different things. Some already know lots of the material and others have difficulty letting go of the handlebar to signal. Some students do not know how to ride in a straight line while they shoulder check and others still brake by dragging their feet on the ground. Each tiny tidbit of learning or improvement in skill a student takes away is rewarding to Brenda.
The program is set up for students who already know how to ride a bike, however it also has a positive impact on students who aren’t as confident on bikes. Brenda remembers one student who did not want to take part in the day. The student had her arms crossed and said, “Cycling was not her thing.” She had not had much opportunity to ride her bike embarrassed. Brenda said that they were fortunate to have enough volunteers that day and she could spend a bit of one-on-one time with her. By the end of their time together, the young girl had a big grin on her face and was thrilled to be riding the loaner bike with confidence. She gave Brenda a big thank you and left knowing road safety skills. Now that was a great day!
Julie said that the change that occurs in students in the short space of time is amazing to watch. Children arrive with hesitancy as they approach each station and by the end of the day demonstrate a competence of skill that is clearly recognizable.
It is no wonder that volunteers really enjoy this program.
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