London

Outdoor gym class? This London, Ont., high school hopes to make cycling part of the curriculum

Students at Westminster Secondary School in London, Ont., will be biking through the suburban streets that surround their high school after teacher James Lefler was able to get a bunch of bikes for gym class.

The high school has gotten a donation of bikes for students, now they just need helmets

Students (left to right) Nada Elshawish, Sajed Eltarras, Akwasi Baah-Frimpong and Nathan Braun ride bikes donated to Westminster Secondary School for it's physical education program. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

Students at Westminster Secondary School in London, Ont., will be biking through the suburban streets that surround their high school after teacher James Lefler was able to get a bunch of bikes for gym class. 

London's Big Bike Giveaway donated a class set of bikes after being contacted by Lefler who, like other teachers throughout the province, has had to come up with innovative ways to deliver curriculum amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

With direction to hold as many physical education classes outside as possible, and to promote activities that allow for physical distancing, Lefler wanted his students to try their hand at biking. 

"A lot of traditional ways of doing things, we can't do, because there's no sharing of equipment of any kind, so we have to completely revamp the program to make things engaging for the students," Lefler said. 

The bikes are all set to go, and Lefler hopes that he can get his gym classes to ride around the quiet suburban streets near the school, perhaps to nearby parks. That's made easier by classes now being much longer than in years past. 

"Since we have a whole day now, we can do day trips, go to different parts of the community, go to parks and do some of the other activities," he said. "Inside they have to wear masks, but if they're on their bikes, physically distancing, they can take their masks off." 

Helmet waiting game

Physical education and math teacher James Lefler has secured a donation of bikes for his gym class, which is encouraged to go outside and keep a distance because of COVID. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

Other high schools have encouraged students to bring in their own bikes, but Westminster's student population doesn't allow that. Many are newcomers who will be learning to bike for the first time. 

There's just one catch: a donation of 30 bikes was easier than Lefler thought. Getting 60 helmets is proving to be harder. 

"It's a waiting game right now. We have the bikes right now, we can't use them we until have helmets for our classes," Lefler said. 

"Hopefully we'll get some before the winter."

The school needs 60 helmets — half of them will be in rotation at any given time, so the other half can be sanitized properly. He's reached out to several organizations and is waiting. 

Nada Elshawish, 17, tried one of the bikes earlier this week. 

"It's honestly very different, but super fun. It's a fun way to get exercise, and you get to be outside," she said. "Hopefully the weather stays nice. When the weather is nice I'll go out on a bike ride."  

Lefler and his team have also gotten some golf clubs for the gym classes and they're trying to get snow shoes or cross country skis for outdoor gym class during the winter.  

For Grade 12 student Nathan Braun, outdoor gym class brings back fond memories of childhood. 

"At recess, when it was freezing, we'd have the most fun then. We'd just dive into snow. It was a blast. You'd get tackled and there was cushion on the ground, you were fine." 

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