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Plumas Charter School seventh-graders gather outside their school building before embarking on a ride down the Quincy bike path Oct. 22. From left: Jahson Sanderson, Xander McGill, River Arsenault, Cyrus Stevens, Lilly Wells, Lillian Montgomery, Kyle Rose, teacher Casey Peters, Aurora Zittrer, Ella Sweeney, Ruth Barrett, Jonathan Pence, and 11th-grader teaching assistant Kylie Anderson. Photo by Ingrid Burke

Plumas Charter students explore on two wheels

This fall, bike riding is part of the school day for seventh-graders at Plumas Charter School’s Quincy Learning Center. Thanks to a grant from The Specialized Foundation, PCS is adding a band-new bike skills course to its physical education program, said PCS teacher and athletic director Casey Peters. Seventh-graders will ride in the fall, and eighth-graders will ride in the spring.

Building on the idea that cycling can have a positive effect on focus and academic achievement as well as physical health, the Riding for Focus grant provides schools with bicycles, curricula, safety equipment and teacher training.

Over the summer, Peters and fellow teacher Hannah Stewart completed a weeklong training course in preparation for leading the program. PCS teachers and staff also arranged a storage space, and received and assembled the bicycles with help from the bike shop in Feather River Outdoors on Main Street. The shop also provides maintenance and parts for the program at cost.

Once school started, students received 12 lessons before they were deemed “road ready,” said Peters. Topics included bike fit, helmet fit, ABC (air, brakes, chain, crank, cassette) check, stopping and starting, turning, avoiding obstacles, riding etiquette, scanning and signaling, anticipating, and decision making.

“Once students are road-ready, we ride for at least 30 minutes three times per week,” said Peters. He and his teaching assistant, 11th-grader Kylie Anderson, escort the riders with one in front and one behind.

“I really enjoy taking the kids out for the last hour of the day to go ride out on Quincy Junction Road or take the bike path to Gansner Park and Feather River College,” Peters said. “In their first four days of riding the PCS seventh-graders have ridden 16 miles.”

As physical education, bicycling helps students gain strength and coordination, but there are numerous other benefits, said Peters, including better sleep, improved focus, increased brain power, moderation of ADHD symptoms, increased circulation, fat burning, and decreased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

And those benefits don’t stop in middle school: “Developing a passion for cycling at an early age increases the chances of living a healthy lifestyle in the future,” said Peters.

Beyond the physical benefits, Peters said the Riding for Focus program also builds responsibility, leadership, teamwork and resiliency. “It has been really rewarding watching some students who were very uneasy on a bike gain the skills necessary to be comfortable.”

By interacting with their community and local riding trails on bikes, students are learning about the resources available to them in their own backyard. Peters pointed out that the Riding for Focus program opens that opportunity to all students, even those who might not have access to a high-quality bike outside of school.

As he looks forward to the fall season, Peters says, “We hope to get out to do some mountain biking in the South Park area before the snow flies!”

Riding for Focus

Inspired by his own struggles with ADHD symptoms, Specialized bike company founder Mike Sinyard founded The Specialized Foundation in 2015. In addition to improving access to cycling, the foundation is “advancing the understanding of how riding bikes can help improve the social, emotional, and physical wellbeing of children, with a particular focus on those with learning differences like ADHD.”

To this end, the Riding for Focus grant provides schools with “everything they need to get middle school students riding.”

Plumas Charter School was one of 132 schools across the United States to be awarded the Riding for Focus grant last spring.

To learn more about The Specialized Foundation and Riding for Focus, visit outride.org. For more information on Plumas Charter School, call 283-3851 or visit plumascharterschool.org.

Ingrid Burke is the public relations specialist for Plumas Charter School.

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