Catch Up with Major Taylor!

This spring 25 middle and high school students from EnCompass Academy, Hand Up Homes for Youth, and High Desert Montessori School (HDMS) graduated the Major Taylor Program (MTP). Riding a collective 2,852 miles across Washoe County, students challenged themselves, tackling hilly routes, congested roads, and new bike mechanic skills with positive attitudes and the support of their classmates. 

This is our fifth year working with HDMS, and early adopter of the MTP. Youth Programs Coordinator, Bridget Tevnan, remarks, “The Montessori Method really complements what we’re trying to accomplish through the Major Taylor Program. Whether it’s making educated traffic decisions, sharing words of encouragement as we pedal up Washington Street to Rancho San Rafael Park, observing nature in local green spaces, or working through failure while learning new mechanic skills, HDMS students seem particularly ready to engage in our curriculum.” Bar defensively bringing up the caboose of our twelve-person bike train, teachers Robin Barry and Jessica Estes lead by example—demonstrating the transformative power of engaging youth in education where choice, exploration, independence, and accountability direct instruction.

Bridget goes on, “I’ll never forget the first team-building activity I presented to the HDMS students. Standing together with a bike on a tarp, they were tasked with flipping over the tarp without anyone stepping off. I’d done this activity with other groups, and most of the time, the “strongest” kid would hold the bike. The HDMS group, though, applied skills we’d learned early in the week to remove the wheels and then divided the pieced-out bike amongst three students. Seeing such a collaborative and creative approach really informed how I structure our classes.”

This quarter included unique programming for HDMS students as they used bike riding to explore interdisciplinary subjects. A short ride up Wedekind Road brought us to Be the Change Project. There, we visited Katy and Kyle Chandler-Isacksen’s homestead and learned about how permaculture, low-impact building materials, solar power, and of course, bike commuting fit into a lifestyle that is healthy on individual, community, and global scales. On another ride along the Tahoe-Pyramid Trail, students stopped at Fisherman’s Park to engage in a watershed lesson from long-standing partners, One Truckee River.

With exciting plans for complete street development along Wells Avenue and Oddie Boulevard in the works, students rode existing facilities, compared the corridor to routes near their school with more robust multimodal infrastructure (think: Victorian Avenue), read articles about the costs and benefits of adding protected bikes lanes, and practiced their writing skills with letters of support addressed to RTC Washoe. During a presentation, Project Manager, Maria Paz-Fernandez answered questions about the project’s funding, urban greening, and careers in civil engineering.

Finally, we joined community members in delivering donated books to Kate Smith Elementary School through Washoe County’s annual “Ride for Reading” event. Bridget’s comment: “It was inspiring to see these middle school students riding with council and community members alike. I think they were stoked to caravan through Sparks behind a police escort. The cowbells and cheering that welcomed us at Kate Smith were exciting, too!”

It probably goes without saying, but we believe it’s this type of multifaceted, engaging, and hands-on education that is desperately needed in our community, and we’re so grateful to our community partners for their continued effort and support!

Does the Major Taylor Program sound like a fit for your school, organization, or after-school program? Rocking a fleet of KHS mountain and road bikes, we’re looking to expand! Contact Bridget Tevnan this summer to schedule Fall 2019 classes and beyond!

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