As School Travel Planning (STP) rolls out to more schools across North Bay, family surveys have revealed a strong desire among parents to improve the cycling skills of their children. For two of the city’s Franco-Ontarian schools, those findings led to a unique new student leadership opportunity as well as strengthened ties between both school communities.
As part of its popular Family Night celebration held on Earth Day 2019, École catholique St-Raymond incorporated bike safety education into the program. Older students and their parents were encouraged to bring their bikes and helmets to the event where they were challenged to visit a series of cycling skills stations as a family. The stations were led and facilitated by grade 11 & 12 students and their teacher from the outdoor education program at École secondaire catholique Algonquin, the high school St-Raymond students begin attending in grade 7.
“Providing students with the opportunity to learn to ride safely helps create independence, and when their parents can witness this as a rite of passage in their child’s growth, it helps build everyone’s confidence,” says Josée Bisson, Community Health Promoter with the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit (NBPSDHU). “And the high school students acted as wonderful cycling skills instructors and role models to the younger kids,” she adds.
This peer-to-peer approach to delivering bike safety education also proved successful at an English-language high school and its feeder elementary school when it was introduced the following month. Bisson reports a high probability that North Bay will continue using this model in 2020.
STP and related active school travel initiatives in North Bay are led by the NBPSDHU in collaboration with the City of North Bay, local school boards and other partners. It is one of 28 projects receiving support from the OAST Fund.