Creating Meaningful Experiences on the Bike
Over the past 9 weeks, the grade 5 students at Gardens Elementary School took part in an intensive cycling unit that began with the students identifying how challenging different types of riding can be for them.
We felt that starting the unit off with getting the students to reflect on their own level of skill was a great place to begin as it would ultimately set in motion a path of self-directed learning that is based on students finding their own entry point into the unit itself.
Some of the challenges that they came up with can be seen in the photo below. Using various types of assessment strategies, we had the students practice the skills that they felt they needed to work on to become more competent cyclists in our community.
Once we had a good feel for what each student’s entry point to learning was in this unit, we purposely introduced a self-assessment strategy called the ‘challenge scale’. Using a 1-10 rating, the students would self-assess themselves each class in relation to how challenging a particular task (of their choice) was for them. The aim here was to help them understand that finding the ‘just right’ challenge zone (a 6-8 on the challenge scale) would give them the greatest opportunity to not only develop their skills, but to also create opportunities for them to set their own challenges based on knowing themselves as learners and their skill ability.
See the photo below of different ways that we used this self-assessment strategy throughout our unit.
The last few weeks of this unit, we felt the students were ready to go riding out into our community and wanted to show them what was possible for them in regards to different types of cycling challenges.
As we are situated in the middle of a desert area, we decided to access different sand and dirt areas for adventure riding. We had all the students try this out for one class, but during this class, if they felt that riding in sand and dirt was too challenging for them, we would differentiate accordingly by giving them the opportunity to ride on paved roads and in parking lots and create different challenges for themselves. Those that chose to ride on paved roads or in parking lots did so with an intentional purpose –– practicing road signals, practicing tight turns while maintaining balance etc.
As the unit progressed, we introduced the students to more and more challenges in order to offer more options to them. As we have some different types of small dirt and sand hills of varying steepness, we showed them these areas which are about 5 minutes from our school. The students seemed to really enjoy riding on these hills. This was not based on a hunch, but through interviewing them, they expressed, on multiple occasions, how much they enjoyed cycling in these areas. However, there were still some students that preferred riding on paved roads and in parking lots.
As we approached the last class, we handed ownership over to the students to create a journey of their choice that they wanted to embark on. The classroom teacher was great in offering up extra time for the students to use for this final class. In total we had roughly 2 hours. The students were responsible for forming their own groups and deciding what it was that they wanted to do the most. We knew that we would need extra adult supervision, so lined up a few teachers to join us on this day.
The types of adventures selected were:
Riding to a local restaurant, getting takeaway then going on a long bike ride and having a picnic lunch.
Getting takeaway and then riding to the sand and dirt area to have races and make a small ramp to jump.
Going for a long ride through different parks and have a picnic.
Going to the skate park and doing some simple and easy stunt riding on bicycles then have a picnic.
Each group of students were responsible for time management and organizing costs associated with ordering takeaway and logistics involved in ordering lunch and picking it up. They used math time to look at distances that they would ride and the timing involved in getting back to school before the end of the day.
See the photos and videos below of some of the adventures the students chose to design and take part in.
As a final assessment, we felt that it was important to get them to reflect on their biggest learning in the unit, their proudest moment, how the challenge scale impacted them, and how they took action in regards to cycling when they were not in school or in PE.
You can see some of their reflections below.
In moving forward, we are starting a team games unit this week. Our plan is to begin this unit at school, but then get the students back on their bikes to ride to different parks in our community where they can play team games of their choice. We feel that we can continue cycling with a particular focus on riding for safety in the community when they go out to different parks to play team games. Hopefully the learning will continue in regards to cycling despite the shift over to team games.
Some of you reading may think that it’s impossible to have a cycling unit in PE as there is no access to parks and other types of adventure riding outside of your school. However, instead of looking at it like this, what if you were to think of what was possible with a cycling unit at your own school? Are there possibilities to design race courses and to create obstacle courses on the school grounds? What might be possible?
It is our fundamental belief that cycling is a lifelong skill and has a very important part in a PE program. Providing the opportunities for students to develop their competence and find a joy of cycling is our ultimate aim. Although there are many logistics involved in setting up a unit such as this, it is well worth the effort. If you are interested in knowing more, send me a message and I’m happy to share how we set up this unit.
Thanks for reading!
KAUST Faculty, Pedagogical Coach. Presenter & Workshop Leader.IB Educator. #RunYourLife podcast host.