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CMU cycling experts on a roll

Researchers hope videos tracking new curriculum go nationwide

Contact: Heather Smith

​Bikes have been a boon to kids.  Frequent use of them has been found to boost grades, improve health and make the youngsters feel better about themselves.

Teachers have noticed, and fitness programs incorporating bicycle use are taking root around the country.

Ray Allen and Ben Rollenhagen, faculty members in Central Michigan University's physical education and sport department, hope to accelerate the process with a series of training videos for both teachers and students.

Recording has begun in Portland Public Schools, a school system in largely rural Ionia County, Michigan, and Rollenhagen said it will wind up in the fall.

The CMU-Portland collaboration is unique in the U.S., Rollenhagen said.

Partnering with The Specialized Foundation, a California-based nonprofit that promotes cycling as a tool to boost schoolchildren's grades and health, the CMU researchers last year crafted a cycling fitness curriculum specifically aimed at schoolchildren with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Its principles, though, apply to everyone.

"Any time you increase blood flow to the brain, you increase the way the brain functions and performs," Rollenhagen said.

Why Portland? Rollenhagen said he and Allen, who chairs the physical education and sport department, already have a working relationship with Portland schools and Andrew Pulling, a physical education/health instructor at Portland High School.

"Mr. Pulling already has the objectives and assessment-based focus this curriculum requires," Rollenhagen said. "His high-quality teaching practices already closely align with the curriculum, so implementing it in such a short window was ideal and pivotal to the success of the project."


With Pulling's help, the CMU researchers are recording the high school students' progress as they go through the new curriculum. The videos will demonstrate best teaching practices, drills, risks and liabilities, use of the curriculum materials, and a description of the activities, Rollenhagen said.

He also said that although high school students will serve as subjects, the videos will be aimed at training middle school physicial education teachers how to use the curriculum and become familiar with the features."

One of The Specialized Foundation's programs, Riding for Focus, provides grants to middle schools seeking to create or bolster cycling fitness programs. Recipients receive 30 bikes, safety equipment and copies of the CMU curriculum.

Eight grants were issued in 2016-17, the program's inaugural year. Twenty were awarded for 2017-18, including one to Portland Middle School.

The videos, when completed, will be available to all 20 of this year's award-winning schools, Rollenhagen said.

"We plan to roll it out nationwide in the next couple of years," he added.

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