Students at Avoca Elementary School in Avoca, about 15 miles northwest of Port Huron, closed their school year with a unique stationery bicycle experience that will be a major part of their school year, beginning next fall.
The school unveiled its 26-bike Green Read and Ride room on June 1 to an eager group of students, teachers, parents, and community members. The “green” bikes are equipped with a bookstand and have the ability to generate electricity for the school as the students ride. The Green Read and Ride program has the triple objective of increasing reading, increasing physical activity, and creating an interest in STEM through its energy-generating technology.
So, far, the reaction has been positive, especially from the students. “The day I was walking the very first group of students to the Green Read and Ride room, I overheard a student say to his friend, ‘I’m so excited. I get to do two of my very favorite things at the same time,’” says Therese Damman, principal. “I will never forget that moment; it made me a bit misty-eyed. I believe his quote encapsulates the feelings of the Avoca students. They are truly excited about being able to participate in this program.”
The mechanics of the bicycle are relatively simple, according to Adam Boesel, Green Microgym owner and inventor of the plug-out technology, who helped Avoca get its program launched. The rear wheel of the bike is a generator that makes electricity that then gets put back into the building through a wall outlet, creating energy for the school
The project may be the very first Green Read and Ride classroom in the country. “I don't know of anyone else doing anything like it,” says Boesel. “And since I've been doing this since 2007 and keep my eye on things, I probably would have heard of it.”
All of the students, from Kindergartners to fifth-graders will be using the bikes next year. Teachers will be able to sign up their classes to use the room, with the goal of each class having regularly scheduled ride times a minimum of three times per week. Each session will be 20 to 30 minutes long, depending on the age of the students.
“I questioned if the younger learners would have the ability to participate,” says Damman. “I’ve been delighted to see that even the Kindergartners are successfully reading and riding simultaneously.”
The bike seat and bookstand are easily adjustable.
The Community Foundation of St. Clair County drove the project, which met two of the foundation’s three priority areas: healthy lifestyles and cradle to career exploration. Since the program already had proven successful as a way to help kids focus on reading while getting exercise, it was a great fit for the foundation.
“From there we were able to put together the right people and partners to begin exploring the program,” says Lindsay Parslow, program officer at the Community Foundation of St. Clair County.
Two community doctors concerned about child obesity, Dr. Sushma Reddy and Dr. Randa Jundi-Samman, helped the foundation develop a plan. Reddy knew someone who had bought a bicycle generator DIY kit from the Green Microgym, so the group decided to add a “green” aspect to the program.
“From there we reached out to Adam who was equally excited to take on a whole classroom,” says Parslow. “The reoccurring theme was that everyone was extremely excited and motivated to bring this program to St. Clair County, which made everything easy and fairly quick.”
Damman says that she hopes the students will ride the bikes every chance possible. Along with riding as part of classroom reading time, “the goal is to have rotations of kids read and ride before school, during recess times, and for an after-school program called Read and Ride to Achieve, adapted from a previously-run program called Read to Achieve.”
Community Foundation of St. Clair County is looking to expand this program. Schools in St. Clair County interested in learning more should contact Lindsay Parslow.