For many students in Philadelphia, the last two weeks of May can only mean one thing: Senior Project. It’s a time when students across the city must scramble to find their way through new situations – leaving the classroom behind in favor of two-week internships at a variety of city organizations.
For me, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia was a natural choice of work for my own senior project. Working with Waffiyyah Murray on Safe Routes Philly gave me a chance to educate youth from the Philadelphia School District to promote safe riding in Philadelphia streets.
Safe Routes Philly is supported by the City of Philadelphia Department of Public Health and a National Highway Safety Administration grant awarded to the Office of Transportation & Infrastructure Systems, works with schools around Philadelphia to promote biking and walking as fun, healthy forms of transportation in Philadelphia Elementary Schools.
Over my last couple of weeks, I’ve been able to do fulfilling and enjoyable work with several schools, which has not only made me proud but given me a thorough appreciation for what Waffiyyah and others from Safe Routes Philly and the Bicycle Coalition do on a regular basis. Here are some of my experiences.
May 24, 2016
Today, Safe Routes Philly sponsored a Learn to Ride class at Adaire Elementary in Fishtown. Adaire students took to the parking lot for an afternoon of learning how to ride bikes for the first time. Far more people showed up than expected, so after over an hour of pedal removal, I was finally able work with the other volunteers and start teaching. My first student had already acquired some basic balancing skills, and after working with her for about fifteen minutes she was able to pedal and balance mostly by herself. Then there was that moment when everything came together and I knew that she had this down. She rode all the way down the lot, turned around, came back, and stopped without me helping one bit.
I continued to help new riders for a while after, but spent most of my time with one girl who needed lots of practice balancing without pedals. I could feel progress coming, but as she and I were practicing, the time came for the Learn to Ride class to end. I regretfully had to say goodbye to my student and retire to the office.
The class ended far too quickly – the fun seemed like it had just begun. It was exciting to see the looks of pride and delight on the kids’ faces when they finally pedaled and balanced all by themselves and to hear the praises of parents who were all so grateful to me for helping their children gain a valuable life skill. I thanked the parents for being so supportive; their thankfulness and their kids’ happiness absolutely made my day.
May 31, 2016
Today I finally tested my skills in the teaching arena with my own bicycle safety lesson! I had been planning this lesson for about a week and I was extremely excited to test it out on the Peirce Elementary Boy Scout troop. The lesson went terrifically!
The scouts were well engaged when I asked questions and taught them all about the rules of the road, helmet safety, as well as being responsible, visible, and predictable. Our relay quiz game at the end of the lesson went well too, with the scouts running across the room to be the first team to answer every bike safety question correctly.
I’m hugely grateful to this group of students and their scout leader, Ms. Taylor for giving me their time and attention.
June 1, 2016
Today’s bicycle safety lesson proved more of a challenge. With a class of over 25 students at Cramp Elementary, this group was more difficult to manage than the previous scout troop of only 10; especially considering the class was to be taught in a busy lunchroom, the attention of the students was a bit harder to gain.
However, while some may have been easily distracted, most students were attentive and involved in the lesson. While it clearly did not go as smoothly as yesterday’s, today’s lesson still gave students a lot of important information about how they can safely get around on bikes in Philadelphia.
This was my last lesson for my time at the Coalition during senior project, and I want to express again my thanks to the students and Ms. Taylor for giving me an audience and organizing the event.
June 3, 2016
Today is my last day BCGP. I want to give so much thanks to Waffiyyah Murray for how much support and liberty she has given me to help with her brilliant Safe Routes Philly program.
Being able to go out the field and help students learn to ride and even create my own lesson plan for Safe Routes Philly has allowed me to really explore my passion, while learning how difficult it is to keep up the work that Waffiyyah does each day.
I’m so grateful to her for showing me something awesome that she does here. I hope she and everybody at the Bicycle Coalition keep up their great work! I’ll certainly come back to visit!