Katie is a Safe Routes to School instructor with Bicycle Colorado. Bicycle Colorado is one of the leaders in Colorado supporting schools with getting kids on bikes. Please help Bicycle Colorado out this Saturday by attending they annual Celebration Gala
303Cycling recently caught up with Katie Macarelli, aka Cranky Mommys, in her role as a Safe Routes to School instructor with Bicycle Colorado. We were fortunate enough to see Katie in action at her own children's school, co-leading the two-day curriculum for first through sixth graders in their P.E. classes. It was a true joy to see Katie engaging children to get excited about riding bikes with her obvious enthusiasm for bicycling, high energy, and wildly funny sense of humor. With Katie's background as a classroom teacher, it was obvious she knows how to engage kids and we were excited to learn more from Katie...
[303Cycling:] Your program consists of one day indoors talking about safety, the rules of the road, and reasons to ride and the second day takes place outside on the bike rodeo course. What are your strategies for keeping kids engaged during the indoor talking time and focused during the outdoor time on the bikes?
[Katie:] Hmmmm. Excellent question. For the inside portion, I'd say I finally get to put my CU Theater Degree to work! Kidding. Teaching for me has always been a fun way to interact with kids. I'm kind of a spaz. I am not above acting silly to get kids engaged. My team-mates and I try to use a lot of humor, visual and auditory aides. We toss around an inflatable globe, let the kids squeeze the "ahhh-ooooga bike horn" and we try to use a LOT of volunteers.
We're lucky that we get to do the classes within PE class by class and not one big MASS school assembly. We've done big groups in the gym with kids in the bleachers and it's just not as fun or personal. I try to learn the kids' names quickly and use them. That goes a long ways with kids. But ask Julia or Brian, my co-instructors, I don't always get the names right. If you hear me say, "Oooh! What a neat name! Can you spell that for me?" I probably didn't catch it the first three times the child said it.
For the outside portion, we try to let the bikes do the talking. Kids are pretty engaged when they come out and see our blacktop transformed into a "Rodeo". Pretty bikes lined up all in a row is a lovely sight to see. One of us usually "narrates the course" while the other teammate rides it. We sometimes fight for the job of the rider. I also like to pull out my Target dollar bin microphone when I'm narrating. It cracks the kids up. Usually nature or man is our biggest enemy in holding their attention. We once had a freak lightning/hail storm during an after school rodeo in Adams 12. Or the time that black-ice had somehow developed DURING the day on the playground during a cold February day. Or a helicopter hovering, or the inevitable city worker who HAS to mow and blow leaves right on the border to the playground while we are explaining the course.
We're pretty good at adapting and rolling with it.
[303Cycling:] What is the biggest obstacle to getting kids to ride to school?