Originally published Sept. 17, 2021 by the Greeley Tribune.
By Anne Delaney
John Reid leaned down to guide Gilcrest Elementary School kindergarten students in a gym-class scooter relay race.
There was a “traffic jam” among a few students using the small, wheeled scooters in the middle of the school gym. Reid, the Gilcrest physical education teacher, took a moment to set the children in the right direction.
Soon, Reid hopes to teach the Gilcrest kindergarteners about a different set of wheels — on bicycles. Reid is leading the school’s participation in a national program called All Kids Bike, which has a mission “to teach every kid in America how to ride a bike,” according to the organization’s website.
Fundraising efforts are in motion for Gilcrest to raise $4,260 in donations to receive 20 bikes through the South Dakota-based nonprofit Strider Education Foundation that started and oversees All Kids Bike.
Once the donations are secure, Reid, a 35-year-old third-year teacher at Gilcrest Elementary, will go through a professional development and certification process to learn about teaching the kids to ride during their physical education classes.
Strider will then send the school 20 Strider bikes and helmets, and provide Gilcrest Elementary with support for the next five years. Reid has started preparations for receiving the bikes, which could happen as soon as the end of the calendar year. Road markings are painted on blacktop at a school playground, complete with yellow lines, and soon he’ll have stop signs on the course.
“Growing up, there were moments that stuck with you,” Reid said. “Riding a bike is defining moment in a person’s life. In rural communities, it’s a lot more difficult to have that.”
Gilcrest Elementary is a pre-school through fifth-grade building in the Weld RE-1 School District. The district serves students in the rural areas of Gilcrest, LaSalle and Platteville.
The All Kids Bike kindergarten program provides schools with all of the equipment and materials for teachers to teach the children how to ride. The program includes teacher training and certification, a structured eight-lesson curriculum, the fleet of Strider bikes, pedal conversion kits, fully-adjustable helmets, one Strider 20 teacher instruction bike and the five-year support plan.
Reid said by the eighth lesson all of the children should be able to ride and pedal with “some level of competency.”
All Kids Bike will be a complementary program to another biking initiative at Gilcrest Elementary called Wish for Wheels. A Denver nonprofit, Wish for Wheels provides new bikes and helmets to children in low-income communities, according to its website. At Gilcrest, the Wish for Wheels bikes go to second graders.
“A lot of our students, sadly, don’t know how to ride bikes,” said Corinne Kissler, Gilcrest Elementary’s resident substitute teacher and the parent of a second grader. “It was a rite of passage, and it’s not that way anymore. John wants to help teach them, and by the time Wish for Wheels rolls around, then they are using the bikes.”
Gilcrest Elementary classroom assistant Lily Gonzalez has two children in Weld RE-1 schools including her younger son in fourth grade. The boy is now riding his older brother’s old bike received from the Wish for Wheels program. Gonzalez said her older son, who is in middle school, now uses her husband’s bike.
“When he was at Gilcrest Elementary and got a bike, that was really exciting for him,” Gonzalez said. “It was a big bike for him, and he was a tiny boy and he grew into it.”
While outside with school crossing guards this year, Gonzalez has noticed elementary students in second, third and fourth grades riding their bikes to school.
“Just today, kids were riding their bikes to school and parents were following in their cars,” Gonzalez said. “It nice to see kids riding bikes to school.”
Through Wish for Wheels, there is also a pilot program in the works at the school to help volunteers learn how to make basic bicycle repairs. The goal is to provide the volunteers with financial support for tools and parts, so students may have an at-school resource to if a tire goes flat or the chain pops off.
“That’s the whole point and that’s what we’re excited about,” Gilcrest Elementary principal Tad McDonald said. “We’d provide a benefit of getting it taken care of at school.”
McDonald credited Reid for the idea to introduce the All Kids Bike program to the Gilcrest kindergartner students. Reid is a big believer in physical fitness, physical activity and, as he said, “teaching people to be healthy and active and moving their bodies.”
A former U.S. Marine from Michigan, Reid originally intended to take a different focus with his career in education. He was on track to be a secondary-level biology teacher until a close friend died of a heart attack at age 30.
“He and I were the most active people,” Reid said. “You can’t stop moving. My sister told me about his death, and I needed to change what I was doing and influence them (students) to move their bodies because it absolutely crushed me.”