By Brenda Yancor
LACBC’s Community Engagement Manager, Brenda, shares her experience coordinating the LAUSD Middle School Bike Club in 2020
As an outdoor educator, I love connecting people with the skills and confidence to claim their space in the outdoors.
I have been teaching hands-on bicycle safety to adults in English and Spanish since 2011, and started leading Youth 10-18 years of age on bike rides in 2014.
I was excited to join LACBC in the fall of 2019 to coordinate bicycle clubs at LAUSD middle schools. We started meeting up with students at Belvedere and Edison Middle Schools in the beginning of 2020 and were in talks to start meeting up at several other schools.
Through an Active Transportation Grant, various LAUSD middle schools are each receiving a set of 30 bicycles and helmets in various sizes for use in their physical education curriculum. The grant also supports the time to establish a bike club and empower students to plan their own rides and become stewards of their school’s bicycles.
The LAUSD Middle School Bike Club is a collaboration with LAUSD administration, LACBC, and LAUSD teachers for a weekly club that discusses all things bike! Hired on as the coordinator for this club, I was tasked with creating and implementing a curriculum to teach students bicycle safety, maintenance, and route planning.
The plan was to have four in-person meetings with students and four in-person group rides that the students helped plan.
A slide from our most recent bike club meeting featuring the slogan students selected through voting: “If you fall, get up and try again”
When I first got started, a big chunk of time was spent doing outreach to teachers and trying to setup phone calls and meetings to introduce myself and the bike club, and get a staff member to commit to sponsoring the club at their school. While my time coordinating this was paid, I was asking teachers to give of their free time once a week to stay after-school for this club. I’m humbled and inspired by all the teachers I’ve met through this process that take on unpaid work for the benefit of their students. It’s a testament to both their dedication and the need to collectively support the development of our youth.
But I digress.
Plans were beginning to unfold at five schools (out of a total goal of 18), and students, teachers and I had done ABC Quick Check relay races (something I learned working at Walk ‘n Rollers), helmet fit, and route planning. We were getting ready to start planning out the details of the group rides we were going to take, when on March 13 LAUSD announced the move to distance learning in order to help curb the spread of Covid-19.
To be completely honest, I really was not expecting this. With such unprecedented and transformative circumstances coming down on us all, I spent the first few days after the issuance of the safer-at-home order reading up on Covid-19 and preparing my emergency readiness kit (aka: my camping gear). It wasn’t until John Kruse, Physical Education Teacher Advisor at LAUSD, proposed transitioning the club to an online format that I snapped back into work mode and got started on a new format for the club.
Johnny Lam was our last speaker of the Spring 2020 semester in June.
With group rides no longer the end goal of our meetings, guest speakers became the highlight of our weekly meetups. Starting the last week of April, we met online with students from Olive Vista, Byrd, Belvedere, and Edison Middle Schools until the last Wednesday of the school year. For seven weeks, we had amazing guests that are experts in their field, all related to cycling. We had Giddeon Massie – Olympian & American Professional Track Cyclist – speak on what it takes to fuel and hydrate your body for success. Woody Sandberg, a bike mechanic and expert do-it-yourselfer, talked about bike machines, bike trailers, and different things he puts together fiddling with bikes, parts and an occasional welder. Ariel Climer, a middle school teacher and volunteer bicycle mechanic, gave a fix a flat workshop for the students. We also had Johnny Lam – a bicycle safety instructor and bike expedition leader, who spoke on his 10+ years of experience bike touring and riding throughout the US and 10 countries in Europe. Check out our Instagram post to see all of the people who made the club interesting and fun during a time of uncertainty.
With the 2020-2021 LAUSD school year now in full swing, we’ve been meeting for one hour online each week, and have talked about different types of bikes out there, how to plan a route, ABC Quick Check, and a quick bike tool overview. So far, this shift to teaching youth bike safety online has been interesting. The part I love about outdoor education is getting students to move around and interact with the world around them. It’s been a learning experience and a challenge trying to figure out how to have an interactive session that allows participants to feel engaged and connected to each other.
Students used the sticky note feature of Jamboard, part of the Google Suite, to point out differences between a mountain and hybrid bicycle.
I once again stress the admiration I have for the teachers that continue to spread the word to their students about the club, and show up week after week to participate. Thank you so much for all that you do.
I’m looking forward to being able to ride with teachers and their students someday soon. For now, I’m grateful to facilitate connections in any way I can, and learn more along the way.
If you or someone you know have something to share about cycling and how it ignites your passion, and would like to share your story with middle schoolers across Los Angeles County, please contact us. A 20 minute presentation is all it takes, followed by some Q & A from students and teachers. We would love to connect with you.