PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – An elementary school teacher in Cornelius is on a mission to teach students how to ride bicycles in his physical education class. The only problem is he doesn’t have the bicycles yet. 

Echo Shaw Elementary School PE teacher Antonio Marquez says he’s a huge fan of biking. He commutes to work often on his bike and says it’s something he’s passionate about. 

He’d love to share his passion with his students, but knows it isn’t always possible for kids to learn how to ride home due to their circumstances or financial situation. 

“Here at Echo Shaw, approximately 89% of our students are Hispanic or Latino and 100% of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch,” Marquez said. “Most of our students have two working parents, which makes it really hard for a parent to carve out the time to be able to teach their kids how to ride a bike.” 

So, he’s trying to teach them himself. He hopes a fundraising campaign with All Kids Bike will help get him the supplies he needs to get his kindergartners on two wheels. 

Marquez first noticed advertisements for All Kids Bike through the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE) America and Oregon SHAPE. The nonprofit is led by the Strider Education Foundation and aims to place kindergarten PE learn-to-ride programs in public schools. 

He said he applied for the program and was accepted for the All Kids Bike grant. The grant doesn’t cover the cost of the equipment and program, but it did set up a fundraising campaign for Echo Shaw Elementary School. It also created information material the school can share with families and potential donors. 

If the school raises $6,000 in one year, All Kids Bike will supply it with 24 pedal-conversion bikes, helmets, a teacher instruction bike, and certified curriculum teacher training. 

Through the All Kids Bike program, preschools can receive 24 Strider bikes, which are bicycles kids can push with their feet before attaching pedals. Photo courtesy All Kids Bike

The pedal conversion bicycles are bikes that kindergarteners can first learn to balance on without pedals before they add the pedals and no longer need to push themselves with their feet. 

“As part of the grant, we would basically get everything that we need to be able to teach all of our kindergarteners how to ride a bike,” Marquez explained. 

With the curriculum All Kids Bike provides, students should be able to ride their bikes with pedals in eight weeks. 

At Echo Shaw Elementary School, the program would teach approximately 60 kindergarten students how to ride a bike on an annual basis. 

The equipment is expected to last seven to 10 years, which means it could impact up to 600 kids at Echo Shaw Elementary School over the next decade.

“Kindergarten is the perfect age to teach kids to ride a bike focusing on gross motor skills, balance, and coordination. By teaching bike riding at the entry-level in a public school system, we are providing the knowledge and a positive foundation of a lifelong skill,” said Lisa Weyer, the executive director of the Strider Education Foundation. 

Students participate in a lesson on the bicycles they received through the All Kids Bike program. Photo courtesy All Kids Bike

Marquez said it’s about more than just teaching kids a new form of physical activity. He said he’s striving to teach his students lifelong skills.  

“Riding a bike is something that is going to stick with the students, stay with the students for a really long time,” he said. 

Already, Marquez notices the lack of kids who commute to Echo Shaw Elementary School on bicycles. In a K-6 school, he’d expect to see more bikes locked to the bike racks every day. 

While the All Kids Bike program might help teach his younger students how to ride bicycles, Marquez doesn’t want his older students to miss out. He’s reached out to other local organizations, like Cycle Oregon, to see if they can help sponsor the school to get bikes for the older students. 

He’s also contacted the bike manufacturing company Woom to see if Echo Shaw Elementary School might qualify for some of the company’s community grants. 

If Marquez can get students at all grade levels riding bicycles, he’d like to start a program like the bike bus that PE teacher Sam Balto from Alameda Elementary School in Portland started. 

For the bike bus, elementary school students meet once a week and bike to school together. In September, about 150 kids from the elementary school were participating in the ride. 

“We’re really excited about trying to figure out how to bring that to our community,” Marquez said. 

Echo Shaw Elementary School has 354 days left to reach its $6,000 fundraising goal. Donations can be made on the Strider Education Foundation’s website. 

Marquez said the school will be sharing the website on social media and will be posting flyers advertising it around the community. 

He believes this program would be transformational for students at his school and hopes the community will support the school’s fundraising efforts.