Don’t be surprised if you see school yards and parking lots in Itasca County full of kids on bikes during the school day next spring. These students won’t be playing hooky – they will be building confidence and skills on bikes during the school day thanks to a new bike fleet and bike-savvy teachers.
Making it easier for kids to be active is a main goal for Healthy Northland and the Statewide Health Improvement Program. Many of our partners work towards this goal by using Safe Routes to School strategies to encourage walking and biking to school.
One of the most important pieces of Safe Routes to School is bicycle and pedestrian safety education – and Itasca County is fully equipped to offer that to all of their students now.
Physical education teachers from each of the four school districts in Itasca County attended a Walk! Bike! Fun! (WBF) curriculum training in the spring of 2015. The WBF curriculum focuses on teaching students to walk and bike safely in their communities, and aims to increase students’ abilities to walk and bike to school.
After the WBF training, Get Fit Itasca was able to coordinate with the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota (BikeMN) to borrow a fleet of bikes. Keewatin Elementary, Vandyke Elementary and the Robert J. Elkington Middle School were each able to test out the curriculum using these bikes. Students were taught basic hand signals and bicycle safety using the WBF curriculum, and some children even rode bikes for the very first time! The feedback from staff and students was overwhelmingly positive.
Get Fit Itasca is excited to be bringing a youth bicycle fleet of our own to Itasca County. Our local schools’ preparedness for this resource allowed us to secure funding from Healthy Northland for a trailer and 40 youth bicycles to be used for bicycle education in schools. The fleet will be used at all the Itasca County districts, and we expect the Walk! Bike! Fun! Curriculum to reach upwards of 700 students in the upcoming spring and fall semesters.