DRYDEN — Dryden middle schoolers next fall will be able to hop on a bike and go for a trail ride during gym class, after the school gets a bicycle foundation grant to provide a fleet of mountain bikes and helmets.
By adding a bicycle component to the physical education curriculum, students will have increased attention at school, as well as the obvious health benefits associated with riding: increased fitness, coordination and strength, teachers say.
Jennifer Jones, a physical education teacher at the high school and Janine Bennett, a physical education teacher at the middle school, applied for the grant in April and found out in mid-May it was awarded more than 20 bikes.
The Dryden Central School District partners with Active Schools, a national organization that promotes activity in youngsters, said Jones, and she gets regular notifications from them.
The grant, which is not a monetary donation, but rather an award of a particular number of Specialized bicycles, is offered through the Specialized Foundation, a nonprofit organization created by Specialized Bicycle Components, that uses bicycling as a way to help children achieve academic and social success, according to information from the foundation. Its mission is to try to lower rates of obesity and help treat symptoms of ADHD in students through increased physical activity, states an informational Youtube video on the foundation.
The interest in the program was skyhigh among students. “The feedback was just amazing, about how fun it would be and how they were looking forward to it,” Jones said.
Many students said having bikes at school would give them an opportunity to ride in a safe place, Bennett added.
Judging from surveys the teachers conducted, more than 98 percent of students can ride a bike, said Jones, but the school will help students improve their skills at all levels.
Biking will be offered during gym classes at the middle school in the fall and spring semesters, Bennett said. Students will ride either on the cross-country trail on school grounds or myriad other places, such as parking lots or the Jim Schug-Dryden Lake Trail by after-school programs.
Jones said she hopes in the future bikes will be available to high schoolers as well, as they are asking about the program.
The fleet of 20-something Specialized bikes will be ordered through and maintained by Action Sports, a Cortland shop that specializes in the Specialized brand.
Owner Matt Belknap said Specialized is a very good brand, but he is still not sure of the details of the purchase yet. He just knows to expect to order more than 20 mountain bikes.
“Specialized is a mega giant, they have pretty nice grant programs for schools because a lot of schools have race teams now,” Belknap said, although these bikes will likely not be used for racing.
Jones said she and Bennett will attend a training seminar in California this summer to learn the curriculum and bike maintenance.
“When we mentioned these things to the students and they jump at it, are excited for it, it motivates you a lot,” Jones said.