Badger Rock Middle School students now have another way to reduce their carbon footprint.
The south Madison charter school, with its mission to help students “thrive as environmentally responsible, justice-oriented” learners, was one of 20 middle schools in the country to receive a Biking for Focus grant from The Specialized Foundation.
The grant gives the school 20 bikes, helmets and maintenance equipment to integrate cycling into the school’s physical education curriculum. Schools also partner with a bike retailer in their area for ongoing support.
Three other Wisconsin schools — Deerfield Middle School, Waukesha STEM Academy and West Salem Middle School — also received Biking for Focus grants.
Students spent a part of Friday afternoon getting a feel for the new mountain bikes and riding around campus. Representatives from the Wisconsin Bike Federation, Dream Bikes, Planet Bike, Wheels for Winners and the city of Madison were also on hand to teach students about basic bike repair and safety. The goal is to have students be able to complete basic bike maintenance to keep them in shape for years to come.
Malik, 11, listened intently to Matt Martinez from Dream Bikes as he explained how to ensure your tires are safely filled with air.
“I learned that sometimes smaller tires contain more pressure than bigger ones,” he said.
Malik said he is excited to use the bikes to explore more of the neighborhood.
“There are so many bike trails around here, and you can get to places faster on a bike than you can walking,” he said.
The students also watched a brief demo by Byrne Dobrient, two-time regional cyclocross and mountain bike champion from Waunakee High School.
Badger Rock students will get to ride the bikes for 30 minutes a day, three to five times a week. Research gathered by the Specialized Foundation said cycling improves students’ behavioral and academic performance, especially for those with unique learning differences like ADHD.
The Madison Police Department also showed up to celebrate with the students.
“It is great to build relationships with the kids and let them know we are normal people who like to ride bikes too,” said officer Michael Barcheski, who is a part of MPD’s south district. “It is fun when you get to do it in an environment like this. It is a really fun course that the school set up.”
Jessica Ralyn is a member of the Badger Rock Parent-Teacher Organization and has a sixth-grader at Badger Rock. She said the Biking for Focus grant is a perfect fit for the school’s commitment to sustainability.
“(Having the bikes on campus) teaches them another way of transportation and the impact they can have biking instead of relying on other types,” she said. “It teaches them that being active can be a part of your everyday.”
Peng Her is the associate director of the Center For Resilient Cities, the nonprofit that shares space with Badger Rock. Her said the Biking For Focus grant also helps address the “biking desert” on the south side and hopes the grant will encourage a more bike-friendly culture in the neighborhood.
“We recognize that in this area there is not a lot of biking focus like in other parts of the city," he said. "There are no (cycling stations) on the south side like there are downtown or on campus."
“We really want to change the bike culture on the south side. Hopefully this will spread to the rest of the city to say, ‘Hey, let’s invest some things on the south side, also.”