What’s the best thing about mountain biking? Just ask sixth-graders Clem Pine and Brayden Waggener.
“Definitely going downhill,” Clem said. “It was scary, but fun.”
Brayden agreed, but said he also liked learning how to ride uphill. “When you’re going uphill, just shift into a lower gear and keep pedaling,” he said, adding, “I used to be one of those kids who just stayed in one gear.”
Clem and Brayden were among 40 Shasta Elementary School students who joined the school’s new mountain bike club organized by P.E. teacher Theresa Ross. Club members were able to ride mountain bikes provided by the school’s fleet of 110 bicycles. The fleet, purchased through grants, includes 75 cyclocross and 35 mountain bikes.
Students at first practiced on school grounds, working on bike control and hill climbing. “We used teeter totters and balance beams and did a lot of agility biking, going through cones,” Ross said. “They learned how to hill climb using gears.”
From there, students experimented on the trails at Moore Park before taking a final trip to Shoalwater Bay on Spence Mountain, testing their skills at climbing hills and, the best part, riding downhill.
The Mountain Bike Club ended in early May so Ross could start Shasta’s triathlon club practices. Both Clem and Brayden joined the tri-club. Brayden also participates in a two-day-a-week after-school track club offered at Shasta.
Ross, who started the tri-club eight years ago, started the mountain biking club as a way to offer more after-school opportunities for elementary school students.
Next fall, she plans to offer the mountain bike club from September through October, adding more trips to Moore Park and Spence Mountain. Other plans include offering after-school archery in the winter as well as the established triathlon and track clubs in the spring.
Ross said she couldn’t have offered mountain biking without the help of adult volunteers, which included parents, a student teacher, fellow teacher Stacey Johnson, and Lillian Schiavo, co-owner of Zach’s Bikes. Schiavo, who heads up a local competitive mountain biking team for sixth- through 12-graders, talked to the students about the team and other aspects of mountain biking.
Ross and other teachers who support the after-school activities do so on their own time. Shasta Elementary School also offered an after-school coding club this year.
“I do it because I like doing it and because I think a huge hole in our education system is not having after-school programming for that fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade age group,” Ross said. “I really feel at the elementary level we need a wide variety of after-school programming, not just physical stuff. Every time we offer something after school, we get like 30 or 40 kids.”
Other elementary schools in the Klamath County School District also are offering after-school clubs. Henley and Ferguson offer triathlon clubs, and other elementary schools plan to offer archery next winter as well, Ross said.