RIDING FOR FOCUS SCHOOL CYCLING PROGRAM
The Specialized Foundation uses cycling as a tool for children to achieve academic, health and social success. Through investments in primary scientific medical research and school-based cycling programs, our mission is to increase accessibility to cycling to aid youth in personal development and education.
Currently in the United States, one in every nine schoolchildren is diagnosed with ADHD. To these students, the world feels like it's speeding past them and impossible to slow down. At the Specialized Foundation, we believe that the simple act of riding a bicycle can improve focus and clarity for students with ADHD and can help all children lead healthier and happier lives.
Beginning in 2012, the Specialized Foundation conducted a series of studies in middle schools across the country and found that students who ride before or during the school day benefit from improvements in attention, mood and behavior. We also discovered that riding bicycles produces functional changes in brain activity and results in significant increases in standardized math test scores.
Based on this initial research, the Specialized Foundation developed the Riding for Focus bicycling program in collaboration with a curriculum design and program evaluation team from Central Michigan University. This program aims to increase accessibility to bicycling through a fun, sustainable and comprehensive physical education curriculum.
The program has been implemented in 40 schools throughout the country, and as a result, over a thousand students are riding part of their school day. Because students of nearly any fitness and ability level can learn to ride, more of them are moving and benefiting from exercise than ever. The Riding for Focus program is helping students develop confidence, improve relationships, and perform better in the classroom.
OVERVIEW OF THE RIDING FOR FOCUS PROGRAM
Once we discovered the profound benefits that cycling can provide to students, we were committed to ensuring that all middle school children had the opportunity to ride during the school day. When reviewing existing programs, however, we found there were no comprehensive, wide scale cycling programs available for middle school students. Most of the existing programs were challenged by one or more significant barriers, including: lack of administration support, limited funding, high teacher turnover and lack of content knowledge in bicycle maintenance and riding skills. In addition, many of the existing resources were no more than a curriculum, a piece of paper available for teachers, which left a lot of teachers with knowledge, but no support.
To address these barriers, the Specialized Foundation created the Riding for Focus Program, a comprehensive cycling program that provides schools with everything they need to get their middle school students riding, including a turn-key curriculum, bikes, safety equipment and training. Riding for Focus is envisioned as a community-wide bicycling education program and ensures that each of our schools and districts receives support and resources at every implementation level. Additionally, each Riding for Focus school is partnered with a local retailer, who supports the program by building and maintaining the bikes to ensure safety and mitigate liability.
OVERVIEW OF CURRICULUM
This Riding for Focus curriculum was initially launched in the Fall of 2016 and is now in its second edition, with online methods being developed so that teachers can access materials and participate in curriculum training from all over the world.
The curriculum is part of a larger initiative by The Specialized Foundation in partnership with Central Michigan University and Stanford University to document the benefits of cycling and the impact on the student brain. The curriculum is the core of the Riding for Focus program and is designed for middle school students starting at grade 6. It introduces students to cycling's positive effects on academic performance, health, and well-being, with a particular focus on those with learning differences like ADHD.
One feature that differentiates Riding for Focus from other programs is our fully-inclusive implementation training for administrators, teachers, program advocates, and volunteers. The Riding for Focus training covers everything from the curriculum to liability and provides guidance towards reaching and maintaining effective long-term implementation.
By bringing together the cognitive, health and socio-emotional benefits of riding during the school day, Riding for Focus is the only cycling-based curriculum that emphasizes the whole student.
- Teach Safety: Students will learn the skills related to handling and riding a bicycle safely.
- Teach Skills: Students will learn the skills required to ride a bicycle competently, efficiently and effectively.
- Teach Fitness: To get the complete cognitive benefits of the program, students will ride at an intensity level that is 65-85% of their maximum heart rate maximum for at least 20 minutes. Further, the modules enable students to form an exercise habit and explain how to use exercise to improve other aspects of life.
- Be Enjoyable: The program is fun, as evidenced by their emotions and actions. The program also provides experiences that encourage students to prefer cycling as a means for recreation and enjoyment.
- Establish Appreciation for Bicycling: The program encourages self-determination and autonomy by challenging students to develop their own safe riding routes, training plans and fitness goals.
- Encourage Sustainability: With proper implementation, the Riding for Focus curriculum will become a self-sustaining, institutionalized asset to the schools broader Physical Education curriculum.
- Accommodate Future Research: The curriculum is designed to accommodate future studies examining the benefits of cycling on a range of outcomes, including academic, cognitive, affective, behavioral, and clinical domains.
The curriculum is comprised of a unique collection of drills, activities, and materials that focus on Skills, Safety, Attitudes toward Cycling, Autonomy, Fitness, and Classroom (Academic) Performance. Each lesson has stated objectives, which are introduced during the anticipatory set, reinforced through each activity, assessed through daily formative or summative assessments, and reviewed within each lesson closure.
Designed to Standards:
The Riding for Focus program meets SHAPE America's National Standards & Grade-Level Outcomes for K-12 Physical Education.
Effective Adoption and Implementation:
In its second edition, the Riding for Focus program has been validated and refined, and feedback from early adopters has led to greater flexibility for all middle school systems (e.g. public, private, charter) and bell schedule formats. The curriculum is a flexible, turn-key product specifically designed for middle school grades 6-8, but has been implemented in high school classes. It is flexible such that teachers can modify it for their specific implementation. Each activity and lesson is designed to be repeated, simplified or extended to meet the needs of the students.
The Lessons are planned, sequenced, and progressive, to allow teachers and students to take incremental steps toward proficiency. Each lesson is linked and builds off the previous. There is a clear plan and students are motivated as they can follow their own progress/improvement. Each lesson is extremely detailed and is complimented with visual diagrams, videos, extensions, refinements, modifications and even “flipped classroom” materials to fit within each teacher’s instructional strategy.
The Assessments in the curriculum are built into every drill and activity which allows teachers and students to continuously monitor progress and holds students and teaches accountable for daily and weekly objectives. Every aspect of the lesson is presented intentionally, and each day’s activity becomes a formative skill assessment. An electronic tracking document is also provided to assist the instructors with managing these student performance measures.
The Cognitive Benefits of Riding for Focus are achieved by pacing students toward safely and confidently riding for a minimum of 20 minutes at an intensity of at least 65% of their maximum heart rate. This is the formula that our initial research has found to have a beneficial impact on the behaviors associated with ADHD.
Lifelong Motivation to ride is a top priority for the program. The curriculum has been designed to motivate students to develop a lifelong habit of riding. Research has shown that having students set goals, track and monitor progress, see themselves improve and see the impact riding proficiency has on their fitness, will motivate students to continue to ride outside of class into their daily lives, for years to come.
- Stage 1 consists of 12 lessons that form the core of the curriculum. Students learn to perform critical riding and safety skills; they must demonstrate proficiency in order for them to be recognized as ready to ride. After completing stage 1, students have demonstrated they can manage their bicycle safely and instructors can now introduce methods to apply the skills in various settings and situations. (i.e. ride off campus, take longer rides, introduce group riding)
- Stage 2 takes the skills and knowledge the students gained in Phase 1 and helps them apply them for a purpose. Students learn the foundational fitness principles and how they can use riding to achieve those principles.
- Stage 3 encourages students take ownership of their riding and fitness. They will develop and implement a long-term behavior plan using riding as the main source of activity. Teachers can also use this stage to develop additional skills like advanced fitness and riding techniques, group riding skills, and bicycle maintenance. Further, students now have the proficiency to pursue other cycling related activities with optional modules, from STEM – cycling related materials to exploring other riding styles (e.g., road cycling, trail riding, cyclocross) or participating in service and conservation activities like trail building and mentoring novice riders.
The Riding for Focus program provides three levels of training certification designed to hold teachers accountable for maintaining the quality of the program. While this process is still being refined, instructors will be certified by completing tasks like: completing the curriculum training, passing all associated worksheets and assessments, documenting and maintaining student performance data, providing proof of maintaining implementation standards, and submitting data related to long-term program effectiveness. These certifications will be critical to the long-term success of the Riding for Focus program and will ensure that the high standards of quality be maintained from district to district, instructor to instructor, year to year.