SPRING LAKE, Mich. — Learning how to ride a bike is one of the biggest milestones in a child’s life and it’s something seven Lake Hills Elementary students can now say they’ve accomplished.
“I was blown away,” said Kaly Van Wieren.
Van Wieren is the school’s intensive resource teacher.
“I have students from young fives through fourth grade,” said Van Wieren. “We’re really working on helping support them with their social, emotional, and behavior needs as well as academics.”
Each day for the past school year, Van Wieren has educated the kids, but at the end of March, it’s their gym teacher who got the idea to teach all of the students their newest skill.
“This year has been a different year,” said Mike Matulis. “We decided early on that we would spend as much time as possible outdoors… One day on a hike, I asked the students, because I was just brainstorming things we could do outdoors, and I asked the students if they knew how to ride bikes. Out of the seven students in Kaly’s class, none of them told me they could ride a bike without training wheels.”
The training began soon after with the class spending their last week of physical education on a soccer field next to the school learning to ride.
“There are a lot of benefits to riding a bike,” said Matulis. “Balance and coordination, working on building neurons in the brain. There’s definitely a social emotional benefit as well.”
As the days progressed, so did the number of bikers and supporters, with the school’s principal and other personnel assisting in the effort.
“Now they have something else they can do outside, that they can do with their friends, do with their families,” said Van Wieren “I feel like, that’s just, that’s awesome. Like Mike said, every kid deserves to know how to ride a bike and just have that joy.”
Eleven-year-old Dusty Jones is among those who learned.
“It’s hard to get him to open up about what he likes about school or his day, things like that,” said Brandy Jones, Dusty’s mom. “I feel like that just kind of opened up the door. He got in the car and he was so excited.”
Brandy says she and her husband, Craig, tried to teach Dusty before, but after a crash, he lost confidence in trying. Craig passed away last March and as an avid outdoorsman, Brandy says she knows he’s proud of Dusty.
“By them taking that time and I think him having his classmates that he’s so connected to… it was a positive thing and he was excited and motivated to keep trying,” said Brandy.
Matulis is hoping to expand the bike lesson to other classes, but is in need of some help. He found the seven bikes the kids learned to ride on leading up to the lesson, so it’s all the school is working with right now. If anyone would like to donate a bike or helmet, it can be dropped off at Griffin Elementary.
“We were just so happy and so excited and so proud of them and they were so proud of themselves too,” said Van Wieren.