As three dozen kindergartners gathered Friday afternoon in the gymnasium at Whitman Elementary School, they pondered the giant colored cloth in front of them.
It covered a rather awesome present, they were told by teachers and guests. But what kind?
“Skateboards,” one girl guessed.
“A lion,” offered a young boy. “A cheetah,” said another.
Instead, they got something just as fun and a lot more manageable – bicycles. There were enough for everyone, and all were eager to join in the fun.
“This is going to be amazing,” 5-year-old Jayden Frazier said.
And so it was, as the students rode several at a time around the gym – after a proper fitting of helmets, of course.
These were special bikes, tailored for the audience. Manufactured by Strider, they have no pedals, brakes or training wheels.
And that’s the beauty of it, said Rett Clevenger, head of global marketing for Kaspien Partners, a third-party Amazon seller that is distributing the bikes in conjunction with national nonprofit All Kids Bike.
“It changes the way we learn,” Clevenger said. “Because it has no pedal or training wheels, we’re going to train you to balance.”
Most of the kids caught on right away. A few were lifting their legs and coasting at a good clip. At this rate, they may be doing wheelies by next week.
The bikes, worth about $5,000, won’t be going home with the students; instead, they will be part of the physical education curriculum at Whitman, located in northeast Spokane.
“This is pretty big for us,” said David Wiggins, who teaches P.E. at Whitman. “They were looking for a school in the Spokane district that would be in need for this and we fit the mold. Not only are we a Title 1 school, but a walking school; we don’t really have kids bus here to Whitman on a daily basis.”
“It’s advantageous for us to have a program where they learn at an early age, not only how to properly ride a bike, but proper procedures, helmet use, and on top of that finding a lifetime fitness activity that they can enjoy, so we’re happy to be a part of that,” Wiggins said.
The All Kids Bike program is active in all 50 states, with funding provided to 574 schools.
The nonprofit says almost 400,000 kindergartners have been served in the past five years, including 78,713 in the current school year.
“We’re on a mission to teach every child in America how to ride a bike in kindergarten P.E. class,” the organization states on its website.