Our last volunteer project as part of Alycat’s Walkabout was with Bike On New Zealand. Man, what an incredible organization! Bike On New Zealand helps schools develop, fundraise and introduce biking programs as part of their curriculum. Once all funding is raised, Bike On New Zealand works with the schools to build different biking tracks and order the correct bikes. They also help develop a class to teach both the teachers and students how to safely ride a bike.
The number of schools joining the Bike On program across the country grows each year as studies show that students at schools with this program have improved grades, more confidence and decreasing obesity rates. To say that Bike On New Zealand is having an impact in New Zealand schools would be an understatement!
Depending on the school, students will have access to the bikes at least once a week. Many get out more than that. One of the teachers I spoke with said her students are always eager to get outside on the bikes, and after 30 to 45 minutes on the bikes, her students are more focused and better engaged in the rest of the day’s classes.
Before a program is opened to students, the teachers are taught bike safely, first aid and how to help their kids learn to ride. That allows them to work with students and encourage them to keep learning and improving their skills. Over the course of a few days, most students who have never been on a bike before are confidently racing around the tracks.
One of my favorite parts of the program is that it gives kids in lower income families access to bikes. Most of these kids have never been on a bike, let alone owned one. This is significant since obesity is usually higher in kids who come from low income families.
We visited four schools over the course of our day with Bike On New Zealand. I became more impressed with each school we visited. The impact of this program is obvious. At a time when schools in the United States are cutting classes and programs due to lack of funding, New Zealand’s population is stepping up to make sure as many schools as possible have these programs. It highlights the incredible difference in approach towards education as a whole. If we as a country are smart, we will take a tip from New Zealand and begin investing in programs like Bike On New Zealand. The difference it could make in the lives of our children would be invaluable!