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A secondary school senior leader gets students riding bikes to gain both practical skills and new perspectives that inform design thinking projects.

Hayden Shaw discusses learning experiences where students aim to make a difference in their world.

The fields at Rolleston College are often busy with students — some of them riding on bikes.

"At lunchtime there's a group of kids on their bikes which is quite unusual to see at secondary school," says senior leader Hayden Shaw.

"Lots of students cycle to school. We have two big bike stands which are chocka. Cycling and scootering are pretty big here."

Besides teachable moments around lunchtime bike etiquette, the college has responded by running a Year 9 option class, called Get on Your Bike. Hayden designed and delivered the lessons. He started with bike handling skills, moved to on-road riding and then challenged students to design games and websites about bike riding.

"There's an interest in bikes and lots of the kids were keen to do something related to biking."

This unit continued Hayden's development of bike riding as a context for curriculum innovation, something he began in a previous role at Heretaunga College. In both schools, he supported students to improve bike riding skills and then use design thinking approaches to take social action around the issue of participation rates in cycling.

"I get them to ask what difference can we make around bikes to have a positive impact? It's that design thinking approach. It's cool to look at, because cycling as a mode of transport has many benefits — from the perspective of wellbeing, economics and the environment."

A PE specialist, Hayden taught the bike handling skills himself. Schools interested in a similar approach could find instructors through BikeReady.

"We biked around quiet subdivisions in Rolleston, so they could practice their bike skills and learn how to communicate with others. Skills like the ability to use hand signals and knowing your environment, identifying hazards."

Back in class, students drew on their hands-on learning to design a website about local riding routes and make how-to videos on bike safety checks. Hayden says the depth of student outcomes was variable, but some groups were motivated to enter the NZ Transport Agency's Future Transport Competition.

Hayden Shaw discusses design thinking as a classroom process that leads from empathy for others through designing outcomes.

Curriculum integration aids perspective-taking

Year 9 students were also the focus at Heretaunga, where Hayden worked with a colleague to integrate learning across PE and technology. This included:

  • riding circuits in school grounds, to improve bike handling skills
  • Bike rides on local streets, led by Hayden on his bike - students fitted video cameras to bikes to record traffic and road conditions
  • Analysis of videos in class to identify hazards
  • Using the new knowledge while creating games on a theme of greater participation in bike riding

Dr Rosemary Hipkins reviewed Hayden's work for her report Nurturing Citizenship: road safety as a rich context for learning. She notes the context of safe bike riding has clear synergies with Health and PE curriculum strands. Further, the process allowed for social-emotional learning outcomes. Students' perspective-taking ability was exercised. Here's what she found:

An explicit aim of the safe biking unit was to support students to gain a sense of what it might be like for car drivers to share the road with cyclists. Analysis of the GoPro footage showed them just how quickly situations develop, and the implications of the unpredictability occasionally displayed by both drivers and cyclists.
All these encounters were sufficiently demanding to stretch students' perspective-taking capabilities. They also brought a strong emotional dimension to the learning. This is a critically important component of learning experiences that build dispositions to act in certain ways.

At the time, Hayden said he used a design thinking process to activate the social side to students' thinking.

"Allowing them to think about what is actually happening in the world they're part of, and how they can potentially make a change or influence their world is a positive thing."

Curriculum resources for Year 9-10, NCEA Level 1

Hayden Shaw wrote two resources, published by the NZ Transport Agency. Both are free for teachers to download, use and modify. The units enable students to improve bike riding skills, examine the place of cycling in the community, and design actions to promote cycling to others.

Health and PE Curriculum Resources (Education Portal)(external link) 

Also, read more by Rosemary Hipkins:

Nurturing Citizenship: road safety as a rich context for learning (Education Portal)(external link)