Many older adults remember wood, metal, home economics and other hands-on classes from their middle school years.
As the educational focus and school budgets changed over the years, most of those types of classes have been available only at the high school level.
The Bicycle Recycle Project at Seven Hills School in Nevada City runs counter to this historical trend and is a unique program that teaches the basics of bicycle repair in the larger context of personal responsibility and community service.
Now in its 14th year, the program started in a closet and has successively outgrown three consecutive spaces.
It currently occupies an almost 3,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art shop that includes 16 completely equipped repair benches with bike stands.
The current facility is the result of an anonymous donor’s exceptional generosity following his chance encounter with Steve Davis, who, along with student and adult volunteers, repaired bicycles for the clients at the Loaves and Fishes program for the hungry and homeless in Sacramento.
The project grew from the realization by Davis, then the school counselor, that meaningful communication with students was greatly enhanced if he and the student were engaged in an authentic activity while talking.
Bike repair became that authentic activity. Since that time, the program has grown to include all fifth- and sixth-graders over the course of the year, and it serves as an elective for seventh- and eighth-grade students.
“I remember the first time I walked into the Bicycle Recycle Shop. It took me back to my middle school days with metal and wood shops,” said David Figuly, Seven Hills’ new principal.
“One of the most exciting parts of this program is how it will be used in the transition to the new Common Core standards. Here is a cooperative, service-based, hands-on program that links all of our curricular areas, from technical writing to math and science through gear ratios, force, motion, friction and much more.”
Adult volunteers provide much needed supervision and assistance as students go about rebuilding bicycles, often from the frame up.
There is a continuing need for additional adults in the program.
With as many as 32 students in the shop at one time, additional adult presence provides an enhanced level of safety and assistance with tight bolts or hard-to-find parts.
Some potential volunteers have worried about their lack of bike repair experience, but that is not a barrier to effective volunteering.
Individuals wishing to increase their repair skills have an upcoming opportunity as the school begins it second semester.
As new classes of students enter the program, Davis has begun a new teaching cycle this month.
Adults interested in volunteering with the program are encouraged to attend those instructional classes to enhance their knowledge of bicycle repair.
Davis may be contacted at 530-265-1840, ext 8143, or Richard Thomas, a current volunteer, at 530-264-6740.
Richard Thomas is a volunteer with the Bicycle Recycle Project at Seven Hills School.