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Biking & Walking
Kennebunk: A Maine Safe Routes to School Mini-Grant Success Story - Thanks to a Great Local Champion!
With perseverance and some thrifty budgeting, Diane Dyer, the physical education teacher at Kennebunk Elementary School (grades K-3), has worked for some time to set up a bicycling program for the school - especially targeting third graders for building life-long bicycling skills. The program she has built has also been spurred by the extension of the Eastern Trail directly adjacent the school grounds. “My programs at Kennebunk Elementary have always been about introducing students to as many lifetime recreational activities as possible,” Diane shared with us recently. “I also look at my surroundings and resources to see what is offered, so when the Eastern Trail opened in our backyard it was just a no-brainer.”
Over the past two years Diane has leveraged Parent-Teacher Organization funding and, in 2012, a Maine Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Mini-Grant to put together a fleet of 24 bicycles to use in Physical Education classes and for an After-school Bike Club. “Biking is important to me on so many levels,” Diane says, “It’s good for our environment, it cuts down on traffic, it keeps us fit, and it is something we can do our whole lives whether we are alone or with friends or family.”
Last spring she started a once-a-week after-school biking class with ten 2nd and 3rd graders. The group rode every Monday for six weeks from 3-4:30pm. Once Diane had the full fleet of bicycles in late May, all third grade P.E. classes finished the school year riding bikes. Week one consisted of a skills assessment, with students riding the .55 mile loop around the school grounds. On week two, classes hit the Eastern Trail. On May 18th a third grade class took part in a special "Spring on the Trail" ride with about 100 members of the East Coast Greenway Alliance, riding from Kennbunk Elementary to Southern Maine Medical Center in Biddeford and back (about 13 miles)!
“Before the program there were eight non-riders in the third grade,” Diane shared with Maine SRTS last June, “That number is down to three in just three weeks! The non-riders are practicing extra both at home and at school to improve and parents have said this program has been a great catalyst to get their kids riding.”
As part of the Maine Safe Routes to School Mini-Grant, Diane also brought in the Maine Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Program (BPSP). “In the future I would suggest making BPSP presentations an actual condition of the mini-grant. The presenters did a great job here and brought up some very good points. My program is based in a very safe environment but when students bike at home the rules are different because they are on public roads. The BPSP Program ensures those pieces are covered.” Diane also brought in the Maine Safe Routes to School Program to be the keynote speaker for the school’s annual Wellness Day, where bright and energetic third grade volunteers jumped in to do skits and demonstrations as part of the interactive session during the school-wide assembly.
This past fall the After-School Bike Club continued in September and October, again with 10 participants from the second and third grades. Third grade P.E. classes bicycle throughout the month of October. There have been 143 students and over 20 bike-outing chaperones involved in Kennebunk’s program. This year’s 3rd grade class also started with 8 non-riders and with extra practice in the early morning that Diane has facilitated, there are now only 2. “My goal for the spring is to have 100% of third graders proficient at bike riding,” Diane shares, “Also, 100% of my third graders now have helmets.”
Diane also notes that another measurable change is at the Sea Road School up the road (grades 4-5). “Our former third graders are there now and I'm told that the bike rack is full on a daily basis. This is new this year and the Kennebunk Elementary program is getting credit for the increase.”
Diane’s experience has taught the school quite a bit: “I have learned you can only go as fast as your slowest rider. When we are riding laps around the school I do allow faster riders to pass as long as they have clearance and must give the verbal "passing on the left". When riding the Eastern Trail I put a chaperone in the front of the fleet and he or she has certain stopping points so the rear can catch up. I am always in the rear so I can see everyone and give help with a dropped chain or anything else needed.”
The students’ experiences out on the trail have brought inspiration as well. Diane reports, “I was with a class one day and in the rear with a very slow new rider and they were waiting for us at the bridge for over 5 minutes. As we crossed they all clapped for this slower student and yelled "Way to go!" I felt pretty proud of the program that day.”
As an active local champion of the Safe Routes to School Program, Diane shares, “Safe Routes to School is important because the program provides us with so many resources to implement walking and biking programs in our schools and communities.” And Diane has become one of those resources, stating that she would be happy to act as reference for other schools interested in starting similar programs; feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org (A final note: many thanks Coastal Healthy Communities for partnering to fund this 2012 Maine SRTS Mini-Grant!) For full article with photos, click on Supporting Document link below.
Supporting Documents: Kennebunk Mini-Grant Success & Local Champ - with photos
Posted on 1/14/2013 | Back
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