MARION

Reading and riding: Starry, Longfellow kindergartners learn how to ride bikes at school

Linn Area Credit Union helps bring All Kids Bike program to Marion Independent School District

Jason Haag, physical education teacher at Starry Elementary School, gives students high-fives Friday as they run laps in PE class. Haag is one of the teachers launching the All Kids Bike program, which will teach about 150 Marion Independent School District kindergartners how to ride bikes this year. (Grace King/The Gazette)
Jason Haag, physical education teacher at Starry Elementary School, gives students high-fives Friday as they run laps in PE class. Haag is one of the teachers launching the All Kids Bike program, which will teach about 150 Marion Independent School District kindergartners how to ride bikes this year. (Grace King/The Gazette)
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MARION — Six-year-old Journey Burns is excited to show off her bicycle skills at Starry Elementary when the school launches the All Kids Bike program next month.

“I hope I don’t fall off,” she said as she threw a ball in PE class last Friday.

All Kids Bike is a national nonprofit that teaches kids how to ride bikes. The school district will receive 22 Strider balance bikes with pedal conversion kits and 22 adjustable helmets for the program.

Kindergartners at Starry and Longfellow elementary schools in the Marion Independent School District will learn to ride the bikes through the All Kids Bike program funded by Linn Area Credit Union.

Teaching kindergartners to ride bikes will be an adventure, said Jason Haag, PE teacher at Starry.

Haag said he was just starting to dive into the eight-lesson curriculum.

Students begin on a Strider bike — a bike without pedals to teach kids how to balance. Eventually, they can work up to riding a two-wheel bike. Haag said it takes only a screw or two to put the pedals on.

“They move at their own pace. Throughout the program some kids might be in the Strider (balance) position for a while where others might advance to pedals sooner,” Haag said.

The bikes are being assembled Thursday by volunteers from the Midwest Xtreme Triathlon Club.

The curriculum will be launched in November at Starry and in March at Longfellow, teaching almost 150 kindergartners how to ride bikes.

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“I’m thinking it will be the first time a lot of them will have been on a bike,” Haag said, adding that it will be interesting to see how many hands go up on the first day of the program when he asks who has never ridden a bike before.

Annette Maier, principal of Starry Elementary and administrator for the program at both schools, said All Kids Bike is a good opportunity to continue teaching students how to have positive, healthy lifestyles.

“We have kids who are constantly on the go,” Maier said. “There’s always a lot of academic demands in the classroom, which keeps their mind busy, but they also need an outlet for their energy. You want them to exercise their mind and body.”

Maier said she remembers learning how to roller skate and bowl in elementary school, and it’s neat that the Marion school district can provide physical learning opportunities outside PE class.

Jenny Lorenz, president and CEO of Linn Area Credit Union, said they are excited to be able to bring All Kids Bike to Eastern Iowa through the Teacher Store, a nonprofit that provides free classroom supplies to K-12 educators.

“Linn Area was originally the teachers’ credit union, so we have a soft spot in our hearts for kids and schools,” Lorenz said.

The program is an unusual one for the Teacher Store, which primarily focuses on school visits and other events where schools can get supplies using Teacher Bucks issued by the store and credit union.

Lori Vana, board president for the Teacher Store, said the board is “thrilled” to bring the All Kids Bike program to Marion.

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“It really is a perfect fit for us,” Vana said, adding that the partnership will help Starry and Longfellow kindergartners enjoy the health benefits of riding a bike, gain self-confidence and have fun.

Comments: (319) 368-8664; grace.king@thegazette.com

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