In the Ozark Mountains Students Put New Bikes to the Test

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Staff Reporter, OARK, AR — Jeff Dezort

Oark Elementary School students are having fun and learning at the same time by putting to use bicycles the school recently received from partners of the CYCLE Kids program. "Students took advantage of an early spring-like day to take the bikes out for a spin around the campus," said Angela Kitchen, RN, Oark School Nurse, and Jasper School District Health Coordinator. "Some of the students are learning how to ride," she said. She showed photos of some of the students putting the new bikes to the test.

Julianne Idlet, founder of the CYCLE Kids program, was accompanied to the school district last January 16th by representatives of WOOM Bikes USA, the Walton Family Foundation, and the Bicycle Coalition of the Ozarks, BikeNWA. They arrived at the Kingston campus first thing in the morning to deliver 15 bicycles and help students assemble them.  Additional bicycles and helmets were given to each of the district's three elementary schools.

"Riding a bike is a fun way for children to exercise and for some, a much needed mode of transportation. We rolled out six new CYCLE Kids programs this spring, and have been talking to the teachers to see how the program has been impacting their children," Idlet said.

The CYCLE Kids curriculum that accompanied the bicycles is designed to promote active lifestyles among kids by introducing them to the joys and health benefits of bicycling. During their regular physical education class, students learn the fundamentals of biking. The curriculum includes everything from the proper sizing for helmets to gear shifting, braking, and how to ride safely in traffic. They also learn the importance of healthy nutrition, what are healthy portion sizes and how nutritious foods are necessary for both physical and emotional health.

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"The students are super excited to talk about the program with their families and share what they've learned (about health and exercise)," said Tammy Payne, physical education teacher at the Oark Elementary School near the Ozark National Forest. "While parents are preparing dinner, I have my students read to them from the CYCLE Kids textbook and do the homework together. In class, I see them helping each other with fitting their helmets, and developing confidence as they overcome their fear of falling off the bike while they are learning how to ride."

Idlet, Kitchen, and Payne all agree that all children should have an opportunity to learn these life skills. The CYCLE Kids program can help put a child on a lifelong path to independence and leadership, it can help children connect with mentors, build important social bonds, and develop self-confidence.

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