2 Yukon schools getting fleet of mountain bikes from U.S. foundation

Takhini Elementary in Whitehorse and Eliza Van Bibber Elementary in Pelly Crossing will also have a chance to take part in an ongoing study of the effects of cycling on academic performance and attendance.

Takhini and Eliza Van Bibber elementary schools get bikes and gear and chance to take part in study

Takhini Elementary's Amanda Bartle, Lisa Evans and Brendan Morphet seen here with a loaner bike, telling the students the school is getting some nice mountain bikes from the Specialized Foundation. (Dave Croft/CBC)

Two Yukon elementary schools have been chosen to participate in a program that provides them with new mountain bikes and gear, and also studies links between cycling and better academic performance.

It's the first time the program by the U.S.-based Specialized Foundation has taken applications from Canada.

The foundation was set up by Mike Sinyard, the founder of Specialized Bicycles. He says on the foundation's website that cycling as a child helped him overcome the effects of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Takhini Elementary in Whitehorse and Eliza Van Bibber Elementary in Pelly Crossing are two of the three Canadian schools chosen to participate this year. The other school is in Southampton, Ont.

Students at Takhini learned about the news at an event Monday.

Vice-principal Lisa Evans and teacher Amanda Bartle are going to California in July, for training on how to implement the program. 

Bartle said it was long process.

"Both with written essays, written questions," she said. "And then once we made it through that, then into a video that explained and described our school personality."

Evans said it's the beginning of a two-year commitment to the program by the school.

One of the types of bicycles used in the Specialized Foundation's program. Takhini Elementary is getting 27 bikes and Eliza Van Bibber Elementary is getting 16. (Specialized Foundation)

She said in return, the students will have access to high-end equipment.

"And also which means that they have access, more access, to the trails and we can expand our learning environment with these bikes out back there, where we should be," said Evans.   

Takhini Elementary is getting 27 bikes and Eliza Van Bibber Elementary is getting 16, said David Wood, the director of program management for the Specialized Foundation.

He said the foundation will start shipping out almost 1,000 bikes to 41 schools in the United States and Canada in June. They should reach their schools by the beginning of the fall school terms.

The videos sent by the schools were key in the winning entries, Wood said, but a former Whitehorse resident who worked for the foundation — cyclist and photographer Dylan Sherrard — also put in an influential recommendation for the Yukon schools.

Takhini students gathered in the school gym on Monday for the announcement. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

Wood said schools are given a semester to settle in with the bikes. Then the foundation checks in to see if the bikes are being used according to the program's requirements.

The foundation sounds out the schools on whether they're comfortable with collecting information for the research element of the program, he said.

That includes measurements of the students biometrics to track improvements to their fitness levels. 

The foundation also wants academic and attendance records.

The program began four years ago and according to Wood, there are encouraging early results.

A school in California saw a 14 per cent increase in math scores among the cyclists and a 7 per cent increase in language arts, he said.

Wood said the foundation is also seeing improvements in attendance.

He said the foundation will also use the three selected Canadian schools as a test of whether some "U.S.-centric" terms and aspects need to be tweaked for Canada.


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