Over the past year, Lake Placid Elementary School physical education teacher Matt Young has raised enough money through grants to pay for 21 mountain bikes and helmets that are used in his class.
The bikes started to be used a few weeks ago, and on Thursday, June 16, children in the fifth-grade class were raving about them.
“I think it makes gym a lot better,” student Tatum Gibson said.
“It’s cool because we’ve been playing the same games since kindergarten,” said Morin Bissonette, noting it was nice to be able to try something new.
Young said he introduced mountain biking to the classroom because he thought the kids would enjoy it, which would in turn encourage them to be physically active. He also thought it would help them enjoy the place where they live, outside of school hours.
“Mountain biking has gained some momentum locally in the last two years with trails being put in, and it’s so accessible for kids,” Young said. “The whole point with elementary physical education is to inspire kids to want to be active.”
That theory that the kids would enjoy it seemed to be playing out Thursday behind the elementary school as the children did drills on the bikes. They rode over very small jumps and had a race.
The race, though, was not an action-packed thriller. It was a “slow race.” The activity included having children line up and then ride across 30 yards of field. The winner was determined by who could cross the finish line last. The purpose of the event was to have children work on their balance.
Children also rode on some local trails near the school yard.
“(Physical education) is a lot more fun than it used to be,” Francesca Hathaway said. “It’s amazing what he did.”
The bikes are also used by the Lake Placid Outing Club and they will be available to the Wilmington Youth Center.
There has been a real community effort to get the program started, Young said.
Funding was provided by the North Country Healthy Heart Network, Uihlein-Ironman Sports Fund, Uihlein Foundation and Blue Cross-Blue Shield. Places like Rocky Mountain Bicycles and Placid Planet provided discounted prices on the gear and other assistance. Leap Off Cyclery in Keene also helped out and Lamb Lumber in Lake Placid pitched in with low-priced lumber for a shed to store the mountain bikes.
Apparently, the group effort was worth it.
“Long story short, the bikes are really fun,” said Olivia Sawyer.
Mike Lynch/Lake Placid News
Lake Placid Elementary School students take part in a “slow race,” using the school’s new mountain bikes as physical education teacher Matt Young, right, gives instruction.