Bikes for the World

Friday, September 29, 2017

Story Riders

Meet Fairfax County's talented crew known around Willston Community Center as the Story Riders. This exciting pilot program has participants pushing pedals and pens. They are learning about bikes, the community, writing, and yes, even alliteration.

In an age when adults joke about cursive being a sort of secret coded language today's kids could never decipher, this unique program focused on writing is a breath of fresh air to parents. Just getting a child out of a computer game or device is a welcomed respite to many moms and dads.

Willston sits in the heart of the community is serves. The kids in the program all know each other, often from the neighborhood, occasionally because they are somehow related. Many of them are from El Salvador and all of them call English a second or even third language.

This is a tight knit community with moms, dads, even abuelas who are very active in what's going on at Willston. When they found out about this new program called Story Riders it wasn't long before the slots filled up.

Story Riders combines bikes, community and literary skills into one interlacing program. Through interactions with local bike groups such as Bikes for the World, Phoenix Bikes, and Bikenetic, the kids are learning about bikes, team work, community awareness, and writing and interviewing skills.

Many ESL students often struggle to fully grasp the idiosyncrasies in the English language. Many kids in general struggle with communication whether that be oral or print. Story Riders tackles all of that in one stroke, okay two; one stroke of the pen and the other a pedal stroke.

Through a combined effort with our partnership with Bikenetic bike shop of Falls Church, Bikes for the World has donated some of our bikes to Story Riders. "It's always exciting to find a program where we can donate bikes locally and in this case many of them are donated in Falls Church and will stay right here in Falls Church," says Outreach Coordinator Yvette Hess of BfW.

"Another thing that is totally awesome about this program is the academic aspect of what they are doing. They are taking something fun like bikes and applying it to learning about vocabulary, confidence, interacting with adults, note taking, and engaging and expressing their ideas. Some of those things are pretty boring by themselves or even challenging, like approaching an adult and asking questions. Tying all of it together with something tangible in their community, like bikes and groups like Phoenix and BfW, makes it not even seem like learning."

Yvette visited Willston this week and introduced Bikes for the World. But the kids already knew a lot about what we do because they had researched the website. They came prepared with questions, like why did Keith Oberg start BfW and how do the bikes travel overseas. They asked thoughtful, prepared questions, ones that weren't just yes and no answers. They listened and took notes.

Now the kids are working together in teams to come up with a story about BfW from the notes they took during the interview session with Yvette. At the end of the program they will put together all of their stories from all the groups who visit (like Phoenix and Bikenetic) to publish a book.

Oh yeah, and what about the bikes? Well, they are learning a lot there too. Each Story Rider receives a bike and will learn how to ride. They take a little time each week perfecting their riding skills (along with their writing skills) and learn about bike safety. Thanks to Phoenix Bikes, the kids will attend the National Youth Summit here in Arlington in October where they will learn more about how to become strong cycling advocates.

Staying physically active promotes learning and gets those creative juices flowing. And the bikes are a motivational tool to not only get the students engaged weekly, but to stay commitment in the project. At the end of program the participants will not only have a great written record of their experience but they will all get to keep their bikes as well. And hopefully they will all keep riding...and writing!


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