Rolling into middle school with help from Let's Go program
Isak prepares to bike to school on his last day of sixth grade
It’s hard to argue with the nostalgia that accompanies a childhood bike ride. For many of us, our first set of wheels takes center stage when it comes to memories of summer break—invoking friends, freedom, and fun. But for some kids, the journey is longer, though the reward just as sweet.
Twelve-year-old Isak was one of those kids—was. But with the right learning opportunity and a little change of heart, Isak isn’t hopping off his bike anytime soon.
Isak’s troubles started years into his young life when he began to outgrow his bike but struggled to balance on a larger one, subsequently swearing off bikes for good. Isak’s mom Kristin recounts how his experience impacted the family: “This broke our hearts a bit because you never want to see your child give up on anything, but also because we are a biking family.” She says Isak eventually outgrew his bike, and they didn’t replace it out of fear that it would simply collect dust, as all the others had.
Still, the family encouraged Isak to try again, but he refused, opting instead to either jog or ride a scooter alongside his family. They once convinced him to join a tandem ride, though there was “no way he was going near a single-seater,” Kristin says.
But that all changed this year. In his final year at Sherwood Elementary School in Edmonds, Isak completed the Let’s Go program in his sixth-grade physical education class. Let’s Go is Cascade’s bicycle and pedestrian safety and skills program delivered in elementary schools throughout the region. Physical education teachers like Isak’s work with Cascade staff to learn the curriculum, then deliver the program over the course of three weeks.
Let’s Go is designed for grades third through sixth, and students enter the program with a wide range of comfort and skill levels. Cascade’s education director, Rachel Osias, explains that the Let’s Go curriculum provides teachers with a foundation for teaching bicycle safety and skills, allowing them to provide differentiated lessons for each grade level. “This can make all the difference for students like Isak,” says Rachel. “As an invitation for students to be healthy and active in their daily lives, it’s important that Let’s Go accommodates students at all starting points.”
As a sixth-grader, Isak had been through Let’s Go in previous years, but something was different this time. “This being his final year and being at the top of the heap as a sixth grader, I think this year’s program just reinforced that ‘it was time,’” says Kristin.
After completing Let’s Go this spring, Isak fully embraced his change of heart and asked his parents for a new bike. “We set him up on [his brother] Brenden’s mountain bike and, though it took him a few minutes to get peddling and then turning, he was riding! And smiling while doing it. And wearing a helmet.” Kristin continues that, “he’s gone on from there to tell us what he wants in his own bike, and what kind of rides he wants to do and not do. He actually asks to go biking now.” She describes a recent moment that really brought it home: “While driving to yesterday’s baseball games, he saw the East Lake Sammamish Trail and remarked ‘that looks like a good place to ride.’”
Kristin believes that Isak’s participation in a school-based program helped supplement what her family tried to encourage at home. “Different environments bring about different curiosities and risk-taking, and whatever it takes to get health-minded messaging across to kids is a good thing to do.”
As Isak leaves elementary school behind and moves toward the next chapter of middle school, his mom has understandably mixed feelings. “I’m really looking forward to riding over the summer with him,” says Kristin, “and feeling very misty-eyed as I know where his inspiration came from, and that Sherwood is all but a month away from its final chapter with our family.”
In speaking with admiration about the hardworking physical education teachers that help deliver Let’s Go, Kristin notes a final thought about teaching kids to bike in a supportive and educational setting like Sherwood: “So much confidence instilled, reminders about teamwork, and reminders about trying your hardest and being kind and generous, all the while.”
As we wish Isak continued success on his biking journey, we’re also excited to build on our Let’s Go programming to help more students experience the childhood joys of riding a bike. To learn more about Let’s Go, check out this video featuring one of our school partners, visit our website for more details about our education programming, or donate to help more kids like Isak get on bikes.