As part of the Cornerstones Initiative introduced this year by District of Columbia Public Schools, all Washington, D.C., public school second-graders will be taught how to ride a bike.
Cornerstones aims to provide all DCPS students in a particular grade level with the same educational experience, streamlining the curriculums. It provides specific sets of lessons that introduce students from every grade to a range of topics, from second- graders riding bikes in physical education classes to high school students building fuel cells in chemistry.
With the help of the District Department of Transportation and private donors, DCPS purchased 1,000 bikes that will rotate between every elementary school each quarter of the academic year.
Bike use in the District is growing rapidly, with bike sharing gaining popularity. According to The Washington Post, approximately 4 percent of District residents commuted to work by bike in 2014, placing D.C. in the top five cities nationally.
However, in wards 7 and 8, which have higher concentrations of low-income residents, DCPS is concerned that children are not learning to ride because the areas have fewer bike lanes and less access to bikes.
DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson said Cornerstones is an initiative that seeks to provide equal education for all students, regardless of their place of residence and school.
“Challenging curriculum has always been part of DCPS’ strategy, but going forward, students will receive the same high-quality learning experience, no matter where they live or go to school,” Henderson said in a statement posted on the DCPS website.
Hyde-Addison Elementary School, located in Georgetown, is one of the first schools to receive bikes and begin teaching second-graders to ride.
Hyde-Addison PE teacher Rocky Parish spoke about how the second-graders are learning the basics.
“We glide,” Parish said. “So they push off with both feet, and when they push off with both feet about at the 2- to 5- feet mark, they put their feet down even if they don’t need to, because they’re still a little afraid of falling.”
Each component of the course is prescribed by DCPS to ensure that students across the city have a uniform experience—a key aspect of Cornerstones. The program aims to have all students riding bikes after four classes. This number, however, is flexible depending on how the second-graders progress.
Students will learn not only how to ride a bike but also how to be safe riders, This includes lessons on how to correctly put on a helmet and check that a bike is safe to use. The culminating project of the course is a class bike ride.
“For safety reasons, I’m going to make sure that the kids understand the rules, they understand safety, they understand how to ride the bikes,” Parish said. “The end goal is for me to take each [class] —there’s two second grades here— the end goal is to take them on about a 7.7-mile bike ride.”
Hyde-Addison Principal Elizabeth Namba said the introduction of Cornerstones has been beneficial for students and teachers alike. Namba said that the evidence of success is in the students’ reactions.
“I had a little girl, who said to me this week … ‘I am so happy, I just learned how to ride a bike,’” Namba said. “And to me that’s just amazing. That all kids will learn this life skill. It truly is something that I think is just wonderful for the kids.”
Parish highlighted the merits of the program in providing students the opportunity to learn this life skill.
“The benefit of the Cornerstone is giving not only the kids that know how to ride bikes the opportunity to share what they know themselves with other ones that don’t, but [also] the ones that don’t have the opportunity to ride bikes for whatever reason,” Parish said. “I guess you could say it evens the playing field to give everyone the opportunity to learn how to ride [a] bike.”
According to Parish, learning to ride has been a generally enjoyable experience for the second-graders.
“They love it,” Parish said. “I actually was shocked; even the ones that didn’t know how to ride the bikes, they’re just so eager to get on them. So it’s been positive all around.“