(Lander, WY) – Back in June of 2022, Lander Middle School (LMS) was awarded a $30,000 grant from the LOR Foundation, which was used to help the Lander Cycling Club purchase 28 mountain bikes, helmets and other safety equipment from local bike shops for the LMS P.E. Department to use for outdoor recreation education
Unfortunately the way things timed out, everything was finalized for use of the bikes just in time for winter, so students and the LMS P.E. Department had to wait until this week, May 24, to be able to test out the goods at the Central Wyoming College (CWC) Alpine Science Institute in Sinks Canyon.
That P.E. Department, composed of Chris Babb, Buddy Red Bow and Jordon Cooper, have had this project in the works for years now, and were very excited for students to get to enjoy the spoils of those efforts.
Babb told County 10 that the seeds for the idea were planted eight years ago while he was a paraprofessional at Lander Valley High School, when he attended an outdoor recreation presentation led by Thermopolis P.E./Health educator Shannon Hill, who was also at Wednesday’s excursion with some of her students.
“If we’re going to endure the winters that we have to endure, then we’ll need to play hard when the opportunity presents itself,” Babb said, adding that those opportunities opened once he became a P.E. teacher at LMS and got the ball rolling on an outdoor recreation program of their own.
Babb soon partnered with NOLS, the Wyoming Catholic College, CWC and the LOR Foundation, who provided the grant that enabled the purchase of the bike fleet.
Because they needed permission to use the bikes outside of school, the Outdoor Recreation Club was formed, and in addition to biking, students involved have gotten to go rock climbing and paddle boarding.
“It was really a group effort for Gannett Sports, the Bike Mill, the LOR Foundation, and ultimately the approval of the school district,” Babb commented, also giving praise to coworkers Red Bow and Cooper.
“It’s been a great opportunity,” Red Bow said. “This is our first major excursion, and we were able to collaborate with Thermopolis Middle School.”
Red Bow also sang the praise of having the Alpine Science Institute so close, adding that he thinks the trip definitely “put a lot of future outdoor enthusiasts on some bikes.”
“Some of the kids here definitely don’t have their own bikes, so to be able to facilitate that and give them that opportunity they would never be able to get to do, I think is awesome.”
Cooper echoed Babb and Red Bow’s words on how having the bikes and going on these excursions helps many kids in their overall development.
“At the end of the day, not all kids respond to team sports, and this is our biggest effort at creating lifelong learners and movers,” Cooper commented.
“We want to teach kids bike safety,” Cooper added. “So many times you can be driving around town and see that kids don’t actually know the appropriate way to ride their bikes.”
Helping with some of those safety techniques, and specifically the mountain bikes they were learning to ride that day, was Stacy Wells, an Adjunct Professor of Outdoor Education and Leadership at CWC who also creates programs for the youth.
“My role here today is making sure the kids get some instruction so they are safe and aware,” Wells commented before demonstrating techniques like braking, riding on different terrain and proper balance.
Wells also shared that the trails and recreational areas at the Alpine Science Institute, which are open to the public for hiking and biking, were recently updated thanks to $300,000 provided by the state, offer recreation for all skill levels.
“Our hope is just to get the youth out to embrace the outdoors and have more advocates for being outside,” Wells said, adding that she will next be travelling to Thermopolis for a similar bike safety presentation.
As for more opportunities for outdoor recreation education, the LMS P.E. Department is open to offers.
“We’re always looking for authentic opportunities to make a connection between our classroom and our community,” Babb went on to say, adding that if anyone has expertise in the areas of outdoor recreation, to reach out.
Check out some more photos of all the fun below!