Students with disabilities in the Mankato area will be able to join their schoolmates when walking or biking to classes in the future. Educators in that part of the state enjoyed a June 28 training day focused on safe walking and bicycling for students of all abilities. The expanded Walk! Bike! Fun! Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Curriculum was presented by a coalition of groups led by the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota (BikeMN) and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). The training will provide lesson plans for students.
Funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is helping the partners to provide equitable pedestrian and bicycle safety education for all students. It is the first such curriculum available in the nation.
“Minnesota is taking another important step to expand access to physical activity opportunities for students of all abilities with this expanded curriculum,” said Kristine Igo, director of the MDH Office of Statewide Health Improvement Initiatives.
Twenty-five educators participated in curriculum training with BikeMN at Immanuel Lutheran School in Mankato. Numerous organizations worked together to develop an adaptive toolkit for the Walk! Bike! Fun! Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Curriculum. Collaborating organizations include MDH, Olmsted County Public Health, PartnerSHIP 4 Health, Courage Kenny Institute, Minneapolis Public Schools, BikeMN, Twin Cities Adaptive Cycling, Blue Earth County Public Health and area schools.
Project collaborators rolled out the trainings. They will use feedback from teachers to refine the curriculum and training over the next three years. Statewide Health Improvement Partnership communities work to bring Walk! Bike! Fun! into local schools by applying for teacher trainings, lending bike fleets and helmets, and supporting local training opportunities. The objective is to continue to build local momentum for biking and walking education. Youth use the streets for bicycling every day.
Yet roads can be hazardous, and children are not formally educated to maneuver skillfully on the streets. With lessons from this curriculum, local volunteers learn what they need to help teachers educate students about traffic rules and regulations, potential hazards and skills needed to walk and bike safely.
Studies show that children who walk and bicycle to school are more physically active, have improved mental health and have lower odds of being overweight or obese than students who are driven or bused to school. Strong evidence also connects physical activity to improvements in school attendance rates, classroom behavior and student academic performance – including grades and standardized test scores.
Michelle Kiefer manages the Safe Routes to School Program for BikeMN. Safe Routes is a program with many partners including the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Blue cross/Blue Shield.
While many Minnesota communities have held events and added sidewalks and other physical improvements to help children safely walk and bike to school, the Mankato event for educators is unique. Kiefer said it could spread statewide after it is developed.
“It is something that there is a need for,” she said. Learn about BikeMN at www.bikemn.org.