Eardley Elementary school introduces new biking program
In light of the increased costs of bus rentals for class outings, physical education teacher Nina Saunders managed to get her students brand-new hot wheels.
On April 21, Eardley Elementary students received a big present. For days leading up to the Friday assembly, physical education teacher Nina Saunders, who was behind the surprise, had been raising the kids’ anticipation through “hype campaigns.”
“We took some video shots of our students, and we had a ballot box asking them to take guesses of what kind of things they might be getting,” she said. “At the assembly, we did a final reveal.”
The gymnasium was split in half with students on one side while the other side was concealed. When the screen finally came up, Eardley students were faced with 60 brand-new bikes of different sizes and colours, helmets, bicycle locks and other biking essentials.
The gifts, which were a result of donations from Ted and Sandy of the Adler & Lipkus Foundation and the Canadian Tire Jumpstart Grant, thrilled the students.
“When we brought up the screen and they saw all the bikes and all the helmets, the kids were chanting. It was a big fun day,” Saunders said.
It was also a day of relief for the educator who had been working toward receiving the bikes since September.
“It was my initiative and [there were] a number of reasons that inspired me. As a physical education teacher, you know there’s benefits for the kids to get outside and away from the traditional classroom setting – to go out, just bike around and explore our local community.”
The increased cost of transportation to get the kids outside the classroom was also a factor that sparked the idea of a biking program.
“The prices at the beginning of the school year were astronomical; [they] doubled from what it was in previous years,” Saunders explained. “Typically, to rent a school bus for a day used to cost me around $450. At the beginning of the year I had to pay $900 to take one of my soccer teams to a tournament.”
As a physical education teacher, Saunders aims to get students moving outdoors. After hearing what Pierre Elliot-Trudeau Elementary School in Hull had accomplished with their biking program, she was inspired to bring it over to Eardley.
“When I wrote my original grant application to Jumpstart, I was rejected,” she said. “And then at the bottom it said, ‘for further information, you’re welcome to contact Kim St-Pierre,’ and so I contacted Kim.”
Saunders had asked for feedback on what she could’ve done differently in order to have gotten approved for the grant, at which point St-Pierre explained that the problem was not the application itself but the school’s economic situation.
“Every school is given a number when it comes to our students, student body and our catchment depending on socioeconomic zones like where the kids come from, where they live and how much [money there is to go around.]”
The ranking goes from 10 to 1, with 10 being the neediest.
Eardley Elementary was ranked 7, while Jumpstart typically donates to schools that ranked 8 and up. However, St-Pierre loved the idea of a biking program, so she encouraged Saunders to reach out to Adler & Lipkus, a private foundation that could be interested in funding her project.
“It was really Kim who was able to make this kind of side connection for me to this private foundation that helped us realize our dream.”
Months passed but after persevering, Saunders and St-Pierre were able to get the Adler & Lipkus Foundation on board to fund the project, along with Patrick Mercier, owner of the Canadian Tire in the Plateau.
At the Friday assembly, representatives from Canadian Tire and Jumpstart, alongside Ted & Sandy from the Adler & Lipkus Foundation, were all in attendance to present their gift.
Over the past weeks, Saunders’ students have gradually started taking out the bikes around the school campus, learning how to ride, signal, and general bike safety, to get themselves ready for upcoming field trips. Students are also learning how to maintain and care for their bikes so that they may last as long as possible.
Saunders is already looking into creating bike paths at Eardley to make biking more accessible. While her current students will only enjoy their bikes for a few weeks before the end of the school year, she’s looking forward to her new class plans in the fall.
“We’re really lucky,” she said. “These bikes are great tools that are going to help us be able to get out in the community.”
Photo Caption: Eardley Elementary students posing with their new bikes. (DD)
Photo Credit: Nina Saunders