Bicycles, Books, and Service Learning (Oh my)
While splashing through rain puddles, running errands, and joining in group rides—all month long I’ve been pedaling through my pledge to ride my bicycle each and every day of April. It’s called 30 Days of Biking, a pledge that one makes for their own reason, be it health, the environment, or joy.
As I leisurely ride through the trails of the Twin Cities, I can’t help but reflect on the diversity surrounding bicycling. Biking is exercise, transportation, and recreation. There are bikes for racing, commuting, beach cruising, riding down mountains, and riding through snow. While riding a bicycle, one might be enjoying nature, people watching, shopping, commuting to school or work, enjoying time with friends. Some people bike for the exercise, while others bike for the environment. There is just something special about riding a bicycle that I can’t get enough of, and I think it’s everything.
So, what about books? And what about using books about bicycles in the classroom?
Here is another example of the diversity of bicycles. Whether you’re planning a project for math, physics, history, social studies, health, or writing—I’m sure the bicycle would be a great subject. My own most memorable project in high school was a service learning project that I did during my senior year. Along with some classmates, I put on an event in my small town called Bike to be Green. We sold t-shirts, made a presentation on how to lower one’s carbon foot-print, and ended with a celebration of cycling with a community bike ride.
Thus, whether you are planning to guide your students through a research project or a service learning project, here are some great books about bicycles for inspiration:
When I think of Amsterdam, like most I think of the bicycles zipping through the city—it’s the capital city of cycling after all, right? But I never knew the history until I read this book. As you’ll learn in this picture book, in the 70s, cyclists were bombarded by busy streets filled with cars. Seeing how unsafe this was, Maartje Rutten organized protests to give the streets back to the cyclists, and eventually won by getting the city to create bike lanes, traffic bumps, and laws about driving around cyclists. Cities across the world followed this example.
I would love to see this book inspire a middle or high school history project where a student would learn more about the history of cycling in Amsterdam or their own city. Another great project to stem from this book would be a service learning project. Ask the students, “What could you do for your community like Maartje did for hers?” It might have to do with making the city a safer place for cyclists, or it might be something entirely different (that has nothing to do with bicycles but with the communities own needs). I love the unpredictability of where young creative minds will go when given the freedom to create their own projects based simply off of a piece of inspiration.
The history of bicycles is ever-amazing. This book takes a look at the mutual history of women’s rights and bicycles. With the popularity of cycling, women felt a new sense a freedom, both in the ability to explore the world around them, but also in moving their own bodies. During this time period we see the transformation of women’s clothing from restrictive corsets to flexible bloomers. This book explores many of the women who defied societal norms during the women’s suffrage movement with the use of bicycles.
This book is appropriate for middle school and would be a great resource for a history project on feminism movement.
Taking place in a Tanzanian village, young Anna struggles during her long walk to and from school. By the time she arrives home, it’s already dark out; so Anna uses her lunch hour at school for homework. When a bicycle truck arrives at lunchtime, Anna is too late, missing out on receiving a bicycle along with her classmates. However, with the help of some compassionate friends, Anna doesn’t have to hide her disappointment for long.
This book could be used anywhere from grade K to high school, but for high school, I would love to see this book inspire a service learning project which involves researching how bicycles are used across the globe and how some villages can benefit from owning bicycles. There are nonprofit organizations which help provide bicycles to kids and adults across the globe. (Kids could find a way to raise funds or get involved!) I’ve also had a friend involved in a project to fix up old/unused bikes to provide them to kids whose families can’t afford to buy bicycles. Again…read them the story, and be amazed at what your students come up with.
While I’m finishing up my rides for the month of April, I hope that you’ve found a little extra joy in cycling. Following are some more books about bicycles. Enjoy!
Bicycle Science Fair Projects by Robert Gardner. 9780766070165. 2016. 6-9.
Bicycle Spy by Yona Zeldis McDonolugh. 9780545850957. 2016. 4-6.
Chirri & Chirra by Kaya Doi. 9781592701995 . 2016. K-2.
Hello Bicycle: An Inspired Guide to the Two-Wheeled Life by Anna Brones. 9781607748830. 2016.
Emmanual’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah. 9780449817445 . 2015. PS-3.
The Green Bicycle by Haifaa Al Mansour. 9780147515032 . 2016. 5-8.
Joseph’s Big Ride by Terry Farish. 9781554518067. 2016. PS-2.
Switching Gears by Chantele Sedgwick. 9781510705067. 2017. 8-12.
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