-- At 2 p.m. on a typical school day, the gym at CW Harris Elementary in Washington, D.C., undergoes a transformation. Sprinkled with hand-made stop signs and orange cones, it looks almost like a mini city, but with only one mode of transportation: bikes.
This year, the D.C. public school system is experimenting with a new physical education class module in which all second-graders will learn how to ride a bike.
The more than 400 bikes are being circulated through D.C. schools, courtesy of the district's Department of Transportation, as a part of a larger city initiative called “Cornerstones."
“As an educator, we want to pair enjoyment with being physically active, and I’m having them learn that without them even knowing it,” P.E. teacher Mike Richards told ABC News.
Many of the students already know how to hop on and ride, but most don’t know the hand signals needed to be responsible on the road, school officials said. They’re also taught general bike safety, like how to put on a helmet and check for flat tires before pedaling off.
“For me, I never rode a bike until now,” said 7-year-old Hassan Walker. “I think I’m doing good. I tried to keep my balance but sometimes I might wobble and fall over.”
The class is more than just learning the skills, Richards said. It’s also about becoming independent.
“Kids feel like they’re stuck here,” Richards said. “Giving them the freedom to move puts thoughts in their heads: ‘Hey, I don’t have to stay in one place. I can go places. I can go where I want. I just need the means to do it.’”