Learning from the seat of a mountain bike

It has been just over a year in the planning and teacher Chris Stromgren is getting excited for third term to arrive. On February 1st SD83’s first-ever Mountain Bike Academy will kick off at Jackson Secondary with 17 students taking part.

Trent (left) and Treyden (right), are two of the students in the Mountain Bike Academy. In the middle is teacher Chris Stromgren

“This program is a fantastic fit for our community for a myriad of reasons. We have a world-renowned trail society in the Shuswap Trail Alliance, and their modus operandi is collaboration and trails for all. The sport of mountain biking has exploded in popularity in recent years and exponentially so since the beginning of the COVID pandemic” comments Stromgren.

He added there has always been a significant interest in mountain biking at the school level and since he began the Salmon Arm Secondary mountain bike program in 2008, they have brought home five B.C. School Sports Provincial championships. “The time is right to extend the opportunities for kids in our community who wish to get further involved in mountain biking and to potentially use it to open doors to future careers, be it in racing, the bike industry, trail development or the like.”

The course is open to Grades 9-12 throughout the school district. The students will have lots of opportunity to be outdoors as Stromgren hopes, weather co-operating, to have students out on their bikes by the end of February. The course will run in terms three and four for about a half day each day. Students will earn credit for both PHE 9 or 10 and for Mountain Biking Community Development 10. It will include a component of community and planning, where students will collaborate with user groups and identify mutual needs and provide quality development of sustainable resources. They will also take safety and first aid, which will include understanding safe practices and risk management as well as first aid training. A third component will be the development of leadership skills as well as a component on mechanics and repair. Of course, mountain biking skills is a large component of the academy, where students will work on skill development, enjoyment of the sport and fitness. There is still some room in the academy for interested students and Stromgren urges anyone interested to get in touch quickly.

“I am most looking forward to teaching kids the skills of collaboration and compromise when it comes to trail design, authorization, and funding strategies. Getting outside and building trails always brings kids together, improves their focus and gives them a great sense of accomplishment. I am also looking forward to teaching the mountain biking specific skills and seeing them improve upon their riding skills and having those epiphanies in that area,” adds Stromgren.

Before COVID, Stromgren’s plan also included taking the students to some mountain biking parks across the province, however he is now waiting to see what the restrictions will be. He said there are many good rides locally but other parks open up earlier and gives the students a chance to ride on different terrain.

He commented the planning time to set up the academy, which has been just over a year, has been advantageous. “A lot of the planning time initially went into building the curriculum documents and support material. I must give a big thank you to SD83 principals Rob Cadden, Chelsea Prince and Steve Drapala for their support in this aspect. Also, the course is based from a similar program at LV Rogers Secondary in Nelson, BC put together by Jake Middleditch. That resource has been incredibly helpful.” Significant planning time was used in establishing permissions and agreements from various trail user groups and societies. “I have worked very closely with the Shuswap Trail Alliance in this regard. Further planning has taken place in collaboration with local businesses and individual teachers.”

Read course outline here