Monday, January 30, 2012

In Which We Help Three High School Seniors Teach Their School About Bicycle Safety

Our educational efforts, particularly our Safe Routes Philly program, strive for sustainability. The joy of riding a bicycle, and the improved quality of life that mass bicycle riding brings to a community, are messages being adopted by an increasing number of Philadelphia individuals, agencies, and organizations. Proof of this fell onto our desks recently in the form of three high school seniors looking to serve their community.

Several weeks ago, we were contacted by three seniors at GAMP (Girard Academic Music Program), a magnet school in South Philly. For their senior service project, they wanted to teach bicycle safety to their school's youngest students (5th grade). Needless to say, we were all about that.

We (Diana Owens Steif and Steve Taylor) met the three seniors, Jose, Santino, and Jeremy, at the Guerin Rec Center on Saturday, January 7th. For two hours on that spring-like day, we led the three seniors through a workshop derived from our urban riding materials and the same training we provide Philadelphia educators through Safe Routes Philly. A reporter from Citizen Philly was also on hand, and she wrote up an article about the day.
Steve and Diana with three GAMP seniors boning up on bicycle safety
Diana and Steve covered properly fitting a helmet, the Bike ABCs, the rules of the road, lane positioning, and properly locking a bike. The group also engaged in lengthy conversations about bicycling and urban riding. All three students grew up in South Philly, hold fond memories of riding bikes as children, and still ride with varying degrees of frequency. They were thirsty for information about urban riding and proper techniques. Diana and Steve were able to fit some on-bike instructions into the workshop, and sent the trio off with helmets (none brought helmets to the workshop).

The two hours Diana and Steve spent on this workshop will pay off double. We armed three seniors with a knowledge base and lesson outline to in turn teach a younger generation of students how to have fun, and be safe, on a bicycle. And we also educated three active Philly cyclists about rules of the road and how to be safe on Philly streets. Two hours, dozens of Philly cyclists impacted. If we were an army, the force multiplication of our lesson plans would cause clamor in the war room.

Anyhow. Our trio of GAMP seniors (plus a fourth senior who did not attend our workshop) put our training into effect on Tuesday, January 24th, when they taught bicycle safety to two classes of GAMP 5th graders. Between 50 and 60 students received the lesson, and the seniors did a great job. The fifth graders were engaged and involved, learning the importance of wearing a helmet, how to make sure their bicycle is in good shape, and the basics of riding safely in the city.
The classic "this raw egg is your brain without a helmet" demonstration
During our time with the GAMP seniors, they told us that their school possesses several bicycle racks, but they are leaning against a fence in the parking lot. We worked with the school to site the racks, and expect the School District's facilities department to install them in the near future (enabling students to use their new-found proper bike riding and locking techniques to ride to school).
Bicycles are fun to look at, which makes telling children how they work much easier
Collaboration like this happens when you build relationships with schools and communities. We have been working with Philadelphia schools for a year and a half now, giving educators the tools to teach pedestrian and bicycling safety without our direct involvement. Our programming keeps children safe, makes them healthier, and helps seed a new generation of Philadelphians who view their city as a bikeable space.

Bicycling is a joyful activity and a transportation option which improves Philadelphia's quality of life. We aren't the only ones who think so.