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North Okanagan school bringing bike benefits to students

Shihiya School is taking part in a program designed to improve students’ well-being through cycling
Students at Shihiya School will get to take part in a program that unleashes the benefits of cycling. (Photo by HUB Cycling)

A new bicycle education program is coming to a North Okanagan school, teaching students about the mental, physical and social benefits of the bike.

Splatsin First Nation’s Shihiya School is teaching students to ride bikes through Riding For Focus, a program that uses cycling as a tool in the classroom to get kids moving, help increase motivation and focus, and generally improve their well-being.

Shihiya School staff, including teacher Amanda Racher, just received a fleet of 25 specialized bikes and helmets after earning a Riding For Focus program grant.

Shihiya School is holding a bike build open house celebration Thursday, May 23.

Riding For Focus was developed by Outride, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of youth through cycling. A Riding For Focus grant provides schools with everything needed to get students riding, including bikes, helmets, teacher training and curriculum.

Shihiya is joining more than 225 middle schools across Canada and the U.S. that have used the program, impacting more than 50,000 students annually.

Riding For Focus teacher champions keep programs operating as they teach students to ride, sharing the joy of cycling and its benefits on brains and overall well-being.

Heart rate tracking indicates students can reach half of their daily activity levels in a 50 to 60 minute Riding For Focus class.

Outride’s research has found that 87 per cent of students report having fun in Riding For Focus, even among those who don’t typically enjoy school or PE class.

The program also gets kids on bikes for the first time. On average, 10 to 20 per cent of students at a school don’t know how to ride a bike before the program. By the end of the program, those students feel confident riding a bike.

“It’s been challenging the past three years and youth need a safe outlet to experience freedom and joy. There’s no better way to do that than by riding bikes,” said Lauren Freeman, Riding For Focus program manager. “Students need bikes now more than ever and we at Outride are committed to getting more youth on bikes. We are so thrilled to see students riding at Shihiya!”

For those interested in sharing Riding For Focus with other schools in Canada, schools can get access to the program by purchasing it, or for schools serving under-resourced communities, by applying for a program grant.

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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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