Every year when students enrolled in Todd Papianou’s Lifetime Pursuits physical education class at Mountain Valley High School when they return from April vacation, they are given the opportunity to choose their next unit. The Lifetime Pursuits course is an outdoor skills based class, and in the spring, students are able to choose between kayaking, canoeing, and biking. This year, things looked a little bit different.
About 15 years ago, in a combined effort between RSU 10 and the Dirigo District (RSU 56), Todd Papianou, a physical educator at MVHS, applied for and was awarded a federal physical education program grant, specifically, the Carol M. White Physical Education Grant. With the award from the grant, he and a group of physical educators were able to purchase 110 bicycles to be shared between 4 schools.
Papianou collaborated with the Bike Coalition in conjunction with the DOT to pilot bike education curriculum in Maine. With the Coronavirus impacting schooling and forcing a switch to distance learning, Todd jumped at the opportunity to adjust his bike curriculum and continue to make it accessible during this period of remote learning. His adjusted unit has a focus on bike awareness and commuter safety. To make this work, he has implemented a new plan that uses content, videos, and teaching tools produced by the League of American Bicyclists.
Papianou knew that he wanted to get the bikes out to students, but was not able to at first. The school was being deep cleaned and he couldn’t get in. After a conversation with his principal, Matt Gilbert, they decided that it was time to “roll out” the bikes. After gaining permission from the principal, Todd rushed home, got his trailer, and headed back to the school so that he could load up the bikes. He brought all 25 bikes home and stored them in his barn which became a makeshift bike shop. He then tuned each bike before sending them out to his students.
Over the course of two days, Todd Papianou and Matt Gilbert drove around delivering bikes to students by placing them at the end of each student’s driveway. Todd said that the bike roll out was exciting and that he was happy to see both students and parents (from a distance) while dropping off the bikes. He has received a lot of positive feedback from parents who were grateful that their children now had an additional option to get outside and to get active.
Todd has taken advantage of new technology to assist in the bike roll out and distance learning. He set students up with an app called Strava, which tracks ride analytics including distance and time. This data was shared between himself and his students so that he could see the progress they were making. In relation to using this new technology, Todd said “Being ready for the past decade with a comprehensive ‘Commuter Bike/Trail Bike Unit’ online already makes me feel proud that I had the foresight to prep and commit myself to Senator King’s vision to transition our learning/teaching delivery to include technology.”
To wrap up the school year, Todd planned an in-person assessment day for his students to show of their new skills, demonstrate bike control, and return the bikes. On this day, Todd focused on discussing what worked and what didn’t work in regards to remote instruction with his students. Todd said that both personally and professionally, the biggest takeaways from distance learning were that “nothing replaces instantaneous feedback, discussion, and banter…[and that] teachable moments arise and present themselves.” In a time where many of us have been stuck at home, Todd provided an option to get outside and be active for his students, his determination and innovation made the bike roll out highly successful.
This article was written by Maine DOE Intern Aidan Sachs in collaboration with Todd Papianou, a physical educator at MVHS as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea email it to Rachel Paling at email@example.com.