Science on Wheels at Helensview School
By Melinda Musser, Communications & Marketing Manager
Ever since Jericho was seven years old, he dreamed of one day owning his own bike shop. After his father purchased a Redline bicycle for him, he discovered a newfound freedom and fell in love with riding his bike everywhere. Eventually he embraced the world of BMX after participating in an after-school bike program run by a professional BMX rider. He poured all of his money into collecting BMX bikes and racing in Eugene, OR. Then, the racing stopped. When he started attending Helensview School in Northeast Portland and realized it had a bike shop on its campus, Jericho was beyond excited to have bicycling back in his life again.
“This is just an opportunity to get me back into it and get some more hands-on experience,” explained Jericho. “They have a bike shop here and that’s something I’m really into, so why not come and mess with it. It will also teach me all of those skills I will need later on in life if I am about to have that bike shop I dream of.”
Science Meets Bikes
In January, the Community Cycling Center partnered with Helensview School to launch a new 10-week bike class. This is not your typical bike maintenance class. We worked with Helensview’s science teacher, Dammes, to design new curriculum that teaches students science while working on bikes.
“The class is based on project-based physics and concept-based physics” said Dammes. The students then apply those concepts to the mechanical world of bikes, allowing them to experience hands-on science lessons in a bike shop environment.
This hybrid learning environment works well for Jericho. “I’m not even too into science, but it started making sense. Any time we start Fridays here in the bike shop, Dammes has a computer with a projector and we do a little science thing and it always falls into what we’re doing that day. Today with the derailleurs, we were doing something and it was fluid friction, which falls into science. I think that’s kind of cool.”
Many students were quick to share how this class is different from the traditional learning environment that they are used to.
“This is definitely more hands-on and I’m a hands-on learner,” explained Gabby. “So, it clicks in my brain quicker than actual science classes, which is amazing. And, I’ve remembered a lot of stuff so far with what we’ve done.”
Gabby also views this class as a way to earn some income on the side. “My uncle is going to pay me five bucks just to fix a flat! He has everything; he could easily do it himself. The fact that he’s letting me do it and is paying me five bucks—when he could just do it and not have to pay anyone anything—means a lot. Other kids might do that for me, too. Other adults might do it for me. If there are elderly people that ride bikes, they sometimes can’t fix their own stuff themselves. Knowing bike mechanics is something I can use to get food in our stomachs and gas in the car. It makes it all the better.”
Helensview Offers Hope
Dammes explained that one of the biggest challenges at Helensview School is student attendance. Helensview is an alternative school where students are referred by the school district. Some students experience homelessness, addiction, mental health challenges, and other barriers that prevent them from attending school. Helensview offers culturally relevant curriculum, smaller class sizes, support services, and a credit recovery program, empowering students and allowing many to successfully graduate and transition to the next phase of their lives.
We are pleased that this partnership will offer a stepping stone for many students, whether it’s offering a way to earn enough credits to graduate, inspiring students to learn more about physics, or even providing the foundation and training they need for a career in the cycling industry.
“I’ve always dreamed of having my own bike shop. That’s my goal in life when I graduate high school,” shared Jericho. “I got a grant for being Native, and I just want to put it towards that. I’ve always wanted to do that. I’ve always wanted to have my own bike shop. So, it’s just all steps to my goal.”
This program is funded by the Central Northeast Neighbors (CNN) Small Grants Program.