Tanya Bonham, a kindergarten teacher at Bowcroft School is always on the lookout for new and innovative ways to encourage her students to personalize their learning experiences. She was ecstatic when a former colleague told her about Spark Bikes – a tool the Halifax Board of Education incorporated into elementary classrooms to provide students with a way of managing stress or an abundance of energy that distracts them from learning. Tanya thought the bikes may be a good fit with Bowcroft School’s culture of self-regulation for students. She was right, and with support from EducationMatters, the bikes joined the classroom.

Bowcroft School serves a diverse range of students with complex needs, and uses a system of colour-coded behavioural “zones” to help students develop an awareness of their emotional state and identify when they need to take action to return to their “green zone.” When a student is feeling stressed or, distracted, they simply hop on the bike for a few minutes to help refocus. The bikes are small, stationary, and silent. Students self-regulate their usage and manage their behaviour without being a disruption to the rest of the class or physically removing themselves from the classroom. The result is a more active, engaged student. “When they’re back in the green zone they’re ready to learn,” says Tanya.

Spark Bikes have only been at Bowcroft School for a short time, and both teachers and parents have noticed positive changes in students’ demeanor.  Claus has autism, and when he first arrived at Bowcroft School he seldom interacted with his classmates and was unable to express his feelings very well. Since Spark Bikes arrived, his teachers have witnessed a significant change in his behavior; his verbal communication is elevated when using the bike, and he has begun to make deeper friendships with his classmates as their understanding of his needs and feelings increases with their own use of the bike.

Initiatives such as these provide students with a tool to gain independence in their learning and the skills to acknowledge, identify, and regulate their behaviour.