Naperville North to incorporate cycling into PE classes

For many kids, riding a bicycle starts as a fun childhood pastime. Then, it becomes a primary mode of transportation, essential to an adolescent's independence.

But eventually, a bike is traded in for a car, riding around the neighborhood is replaced with school activities and teens stop viewing cycling as their preferred method of travel.

Community leaders are hoping to reverse that mindset for Naperville North High School students by integrating cycling into physical education classes, said John Fiore, instructional coordinator for the school's wellness department.

Riding for Focus is designed to provide schools with training, equipment and educational tools to get students riding bikes. Developed by the California-based Specialized Foundation, the curriculum-centered program aims to positively affect students' education and health through cycling, while also maintaining a focus on helping those with learning differences, such as ADHD.

Riding for Focus has been implemented in more than 120 middle schools nationwide. Naperville North will be the first high school to participate, said Troy Cooper, president of the Naperville Parks Foundation.

“It's an awesome program, and we're thrilled to have it in Naperville,” he said. “We hope it'll be the first domino to fall in terms of bringing it to other schools.”

Forty 24-speed mountain bikes of all sizes were brought over to the high school Tuesday. The program won't officially be integrated into physical education classes until the fall, but Fiore said some students might get a chance to try out the bikes in the final days of this school year.

The curriculum likely will be introduced to juniors and seniors in adventure education classes before being rolled out to other students, Fiore said, noting the school also will offer an orientation for those who don't know how to ride. A cycling course will be created on the high school grounds, he said, and field trips could be planned along the community's bike paths.

Students in the career and technology department also might have a hand in fixing or maintaining the bikes, Fiore added. Staff members with the Specialized Foundation will hold an in-person training session to ensure the program is successfully integrated into classrooms.

“We need to spend some time as a staff to figure out what's the best way of implementation and obviously the logistics of it,” Fiore said.

The Naperville Parks Foundation spearheaded efforts to bring the program to Naperville North, including raising a majority of the $29,000 needed to launch the project, Cooper said. The group received funding support from the school, as well as donations from private businesses such as Jewel-Osco and John Greene Realtor. Spokes, a local bike shop, built the bikes and provided them at a discounted rate, he said.

“Our mission at the Parks Foundation is to get people in the community outside and active,” Cooper said. “We look for creative ways to partner with businesses (and others) in the community to make this happen. This was a really good partnership.”

Teens often lose sight of the importance of riding a bike as their lives become busier, Fiore said.

The goal of Riding for Focus is to reintroduce the activity to students and promote cognitive ability, emotional well-being and physical fitness.

Students also will be reminded of the environmental benefits of cycling, he said.

“If we could reduce our carbon footprint, that's being a good citizen,” Fiore said. “And when you're biking, you're interacting with the environment, and not just getting from point A to point B.”

  Naperville North High School junior Matas Skucas, 17, is all smiles Tuesday as he prepares to ride one of 40 new mountain bikes to his school, where a new cycling program will be integrated into the physical education curriculum. Brian Hill/
  Forty mountain bikes, built by the Spokes bike shop, will be used in physical education classes starting next fall at Naperville North High School. Brian Hill/
  Basil Radi, owner of Spokes in Naperville, fits a Naperville North High School student with a bike helmet Tuesday. The local bike shop assembled the 40 mountain bikes that will be used next year in physical education classes. Brian Hill/
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