DSST Cycling Initiative
The mission of the Denver School of Science and Technology’s cycling initiative is to provide bicycle safety and maintenance instruction, service opportunities, and both physical fitness and nutrition education to students who would not otherwise be exposed to such activities. Our program also focuses on character development and life skills including goal setting, teamwork, commitment, and confidence building.
Childhood obesity is a significant and increasingly important issue that can lead to long term health effects including heart disease, an increased risk for certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, and stroke. We believe that the root of the problem lies in the lack of nutrition and physical fitness education as well as poor access to equipment required for aerobic physical activity. As one can clearly see from the statistics below, a multipronged approach is required to create the paradigm shift in youth culture necessary to stem the tide of the obesity epidemic.
- In 2008, more than one third of children were overweight or obese and childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years.
- It is recommended that children complete at least 60 minutes of aerobic physical activity each day, but in 2007 only 18% of students in grades 9-12 met this recommendation.
- On a typical day, 80% of youth drink sugar drinks. These sugar drinks are the largest source of added sugar and an important contributor of calories in the diet of today’s youth.
- Children 8-18 years of age spend an average of 7.5 hours a day using entertainment media, including TV, computers, video games, cell phones, and movies.Our Results
We initiated a cycling club pilot with 16 students at DSST Green Valley Ranch HS in the 2011-12 school year. This represented an enrollment of approximately 10% of the student population in the program. In addition to strong student interest and participation, over 50% of the staff participated in at least one organized ride, providing a venue for students and teachers to interact outside of the traditional academic environment in an effort to strengthen relationships and develop character. Highlights of the pilot include:
- Design and implementation of a focused ten week physical fitness training program that resulted in over 2,000 miles ridden, not including time or distance completed on indoor trainers and cross training.
- Completion of a series of three mountain bike rides along the Colorado Front Range.
- Completion of a series of three nutrition and cooking sessions focused on breakfast and the uniquenutritional demands of an athlete’s body.
- Construction of 100 yards of new trail and reclamation of the old trail in the Buffalo Creek Trail Systemnear Bailey, Colorado.
- Completion of a bicycle safety and basic bicycle maintenance course by 100% of the program’sparticipants.
- Design and implementation of a data collection and tracking system that will provide quantifiable data onmeasures such as academic performance, behavior, self esteem, nutrition, and physical fitness.
- Completion of the 25 mile course at the Denver Century Ride or another 25 mile ride in the spring by 50%
of the program participants and a 100% completion rate of a 15 mile ride.
Our initial data from the pilot suggests that the cycling club fills a unique niche for both students and the school and this is most evident in the fact that over 40 students in the 10th grade have signed up to join the cycling club next year. This represents almost 30% of students in the 10th grade and is an increase of over 250% from the year one pilot. The chief objective of year two is to complete the design and implementation of a scalable version of the DSST cycling club model that maintains fidelity to the core elements of the program. In year two the focus will remain on four key elements: physical fitness education and training, nutrition education and food preparation, bicycle safety and maintenance, and service. These four core elements are summarized below and at this time we are also seeking to implement a bamboo bicycle construction workshop to both increase the profile of bicycles in the community and educate students on the principles of engineering and environmental design while allowing them to connect the math and science principles they have learned in their academic classes to a real world experience.
- Students will participate in a training program designed to build aerobic endurance, strength, and flexibility. Through this structured program students will gradually increase their mileage and time on the bike to prepare for rides up to 50 miles. Additionally, students will also be provided with mountain bike skills instruction as they seek to open themselves to the new challenges, experiences, and places.
- Students will also participate in a nutrition program that will provide them with culinary instruction and nutritional information as they learn to prepare food for an active lifestyle. This year we will focus on breakfast since research has shown that children who skip breakfast perform less well academically, socially and emotionally, whereas eating breakfast improves children’s problem solving abilities, memory, concentration, and creative thinking. In addition to a clear emphasis on breakfast, we will also educate students on the unique nutritional requirements of an active lifestyle.
- All students will be provided with 3 hours of on the bike training related to bicycle anatomy, safety, and basic riding skills to prepare them to demonstrate mastery and complete a checklist of essential skills necessary to participate in group rides. Furthermore, each student will complete a 2 hour bicycle maintenance course where students will receive instruction on the essentials of bicycle maintenance such as changing a tire and lubricating the chain. Students that are interested in more advanced maintenance topics such as overhauling hubs and truing wheels will be able to complete an additional 10 week course covering these different advanced topics.
- Through partnerships with the US Forest Service and the Colorado Mountain Bike Association we will again complete a trail maintenance project in the Buffalo Creek Trail System near Bailey, Colorado. This is a significant opportunity for many students to give back to the community, experience the outdoors, and it is experiences such as these that will invest students in the protection and preservation of our natural world. This year we also plan to host a community bike night where community members can bring in their bicycles for advice on maintenance and students will provide both instruction and assistance as community members repair their bicycles. Through these opportunities, as well as other opportunities still in the planning stages, students will be required to complete five hours of community service during the school year.
Note: All statistics and health related information obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.