Buckhannon Academy Elementary School first-grader Shydan Hedgecoth is ready to roll as she bikes around the school’s gymnasium on a Strider bicycle, donated by the Strider Education Foundation. The school now has 22 bicycles and helmets, and physical education instructors Dan Hepler and Dustin Carlyle intend to help students learn to ride a bike following the Strider program.

Pedal pushers: BAES is first school in W.Va. to institute elementary bike-riding program

BUCKHANNON – Very soon, students at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School will be wheeling around, thanks the folks at the Strider Education Foundation.

BAES physical education instructors Dan Hepler and Dustin Carlyle said they wrote a grant and received both balance bikes and strider bicycles from the Foundation for the school.

They said along with the bicycles, they had training through the Strider Learn-To-Ride curriculum. The curriculum has been proven not only to be a successful way to teach young children, individuals with special needs and the elderly to ride, but also to increase confidence, social skills, independence and a “can-do” attitude for life.

Hepler said the donation of bicycles for BAES is the first program of its kind in an elementary school in West Virginia. He said he wrote the grant to the Strider Education Foundation and received 22 bicycles and helmets.

“I was thinking about something to do to help the kids here,” Hepler said. “I ended up calling Strider to see if they could donate bikes to give to students. They told me they do not donate bikes to give away, but said they had a program where we can donate bikes to schools and then you can teach the students how to ride a bicycle.”

Hepler said he filled out the paperwork to receive the grant.

“How it works is, someone adopts your school,” he said. “Once they adopt your school, the business donates the money to get the bikes to your school. Wayne Lilly called us from Strider and said someone adopted BAES. I went through the training, and we received the bicycles.”

Right now, the bicycles are in the process of being assembled and when that is completed, students will begin learning to ride.

“This is a step-building process,” Hepler said. “Shydan Hedgecoth, a first-grade student at BAES, didn’t know how to ride a bicycle at all. We started her with the balance bike where she learned to build her balance and get used to being able to turn and keep herself upright. Then, she learned how to glide and now, she can get on the bicycle and take off.”

Hepler said they taught Shydan how to ride first to see how the program works.

“I picked her and let her start working on learning how to ride a bicycle,” Hepler said.

Shydan said at the beginning of this school year, she had no idea how to ride a bike.

“I started on the balance bike and now I can ride,” Shydan said. “I have a bicycle at home that I can ride. My daddy took off the training wheels so I can ride it.”

Hepler said the Strider program not only teaches kids to ride a bicycle but assists students in fostering other skills as well.

“One of the things the program teaches them is confidence,” he said. “It lets them know they can do things and achieve goals if they keep working at it. It is something the kids like to do, and it is good exercise. It teaches them something they can do for the rest of their life – this fitness skill can follow them the rest of their life. It is a skill they need.”

Hepler said the plan is to work with students in pre-K first, then move on to first and second grade.

“We are going to start at step one with the balance bike with no pedals, and we will practice,” he said. “Once they have the balance, we will work on gliding across the gymnasium. Once they get that down, we will put the pedals on the bikes, and they will be taking off.”

Hepler said he and Carlyle love their students.

“The best part about being an elementary gym teacher is the kids are excited to see you every day,” Hepler said. “They were so excited when they saw the bikes and are excited to get the lessons started.”

He said the folks at the Strider Foundation could not have been nicer.

“They were super excited to get the program started with us,” Hepler said. “We are actually the pilot school in West Virginia. We are the only elementary school in the entire state to have these bikes right now. They were great – they are extremely passionate about wanting to get as many bikes out to elementary schools as they can.”

“It was so easy to write the grant, and I would recommend other teachers look into the program and get involved,” he added. “Strider will make it happen. The folks at Strider told me it is their goal to have every kid in the country being able to ride a bike.”

Approximately 500-600 students attend BAES, and this is a wonderful opportunity for each of them, Hepler said.

“We have enough bikes that we can teach an entire class,” Hepler said. “Every kid in class can use a bike. It’s a really great thing. Who doesn’t remember who taught them to ride a bike?”

The Strider Education Foundation, on their website at www.stridereducationfoundation.org, said they believe learning to ride a bike builds confidence and teaches kids that they can do anything. The site says they believe the opportunity to ride should be available to everyone regardless of their physical, mental or financial abilities.

The Strider Education Foundation also credits their donors, who are passionate about the process of giving bikes to anyone and everyone who can benefit from learning to ride.

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