Biking to school to learn better (and win prizes)
“I think it’s a positive way to start your day,” says Lisa Clarke about cycling to work. Clarke is a learning resource teacher at Franklin Road Elementary School in Hamilton. Last year, she shared her love of bike commuting with her students after a friend told her about Bike to School Week, a initiative launched in 2015 through the Smart Commute program by Metrolink, a southern Ontario transportation agency.
Clarke, who is part of the healthaction team at her school, has been motivated to learn more about the correlation between walking or riding to school, and learning. “I think it gets rid of a lot of wiggles, and makes students more centred and focused by the time they get to school,” she says.
In organizing her school’s activities – which won a Bike to School Week award for the Hamilton area this past November – Clarke enlisted local non-profit New Hope Community Bikes to conduct workshops. Students who rode to school were awarded with stickers and raffle tickets for prizes drawn at the end of the week. The Grade 1 math program had students count the number of bicycles each day and graph the results – ridership more than tripled throughout the week.
Clarke’s tweets also attracted the attention of Charles Burke of Start The Cycle, who donated helmets, locks and a bike rack. For those with no bike at all, he set up his mobile “bike-lending library” across the street from the school, allowing kids to sign one out (with helmet, lock and computer) on a weekly basis. The school is registered again this year for Bike to School Week, which runs May 29 to June 2. Clarke wants to reward kids with raffle tickets for getting a friend to commute by bike – bonus tickets if they get a teacher, she says with a laugh.— Taranolan