Don’t be alarmed if you see dozens of kids riding bikes en masse around Spanaway Middle School on some sunny afternoon in the near future.
SMS was one of just 20 schools in the country to be awarded a sought-after grant that gives students access to 40 brand new bicycles.
The grant, which was distributed by the Specialized Foundation, provides the bikes, safety equipment and training needed to implement a program called Riding for Focus.
The program was designed to introduce middle school students to cycling’s positive effects on academic performance, health, and well-being, according to the Specialized Foundation.
SMS teacher Scott Birdseye, who applied for the grant and is spearheading the program, had been looking for ways to introduce cycling culture to his students.
“One of my goals for this school is to fill those bike racks,” he said. “I want kids to be excited to get to school, and want them to have that freedom of riding a bike to school.”
Birdseye has worked with students in Tacoma as part of a cycling program called the Major Taylor Project. He said it was that experience that opened his eyes to how powerful cycling can be for young people.
“Working with them, it really drove home what riding a bicycle can do for kids,” Birdseye said. “What I learned was that a bicycle is something that can make a large space seem small, and I wanted to be able to bring that down here.”
SMS’s new bikes will be used in a number of ways, including during gym class and after-school programs. Birdseye would eventually like to introduce a cyclecross or mountain biking team, but that will be later down that road.
Teachers will accompany students on the rides, and everyone involved will have safety training and equipment.
Winning the grant was especially sweet for Birdseye because he attended Spanaway Middle School as a child and feels a deep connection to the community.
“I want to make sure that the community I grew up in is a community where people want to be and kids feel safe and we can do the types of things we want to do,” he said. “I see these bicycles as helping with that.”