Greater Cincinnati STEM Bicycle Club Program Expanding to Eight Area Schools

UC School of Education Professor leading engaging curriculum and developing cross sector partnership

students and staff working on a bike

The benefits of the Greater Cincinnati STEM Bicycle Club reach far beyond the assembling of bikes and harmonious clanking of hand tools at work by students learning about engineering and problem solving. The club – a project designed by the Greater Cincinnati STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Collaborative (GCSC) –delivers a relevant curriculum in a fun, engaging way that not only teaches children how to reverse engineer a bike but also helps them build confidence.

The project has been so successful in delivering these and other benefits to students of the GSCS’ pilot program at Woodward Career Technical High School that it is being rolled out to seven additional schools across the region this spring. Schools involved include: Amelia Middle School; Campbell County Middle School; Clermont Northeastern Middle School; Holmes Middle School; Aiken High School; Ockerman Middle Schools; and R. A. Jones Middle School.

Survey results from the 2014 pilot program at Woodward Career Technical High School show that through the Bicycle Club, 27 percent of 7th and 8th grade students reported agreeing that math is an important subject to learn. A similar number reported an increase in their confidence in problem solving.

 “We know that children learn best when they are actively engaged in relevant subjects of interest and that they love bikes for the independence and pride of ownership they offer,” said Kathie Maynard, an assistant education professor and director of community partnerships at UC’s College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH). Core leadership for the GCSC comes from CECH along with Partners for a Competitive Workforce/UnitedWay, The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation, and the StrivePartnership.

The project is set up as an after school program that runs for 10 weeks, with students meeting once per week. At the program, mentors from community organizations and businesses, such as GE, play a key role in helping students complete the work while building STEM skills in a supportive environment. Through the involvement of community mentors and coaches, the club also exposes students to short- and long-term STEM career possibilities.   

Much like the mentoring opportunities the project has fostered, the cross-sector partnership has developed mutually beneficial results for all those involved. From providing funding to educational enrichment, various Greater Cincinnati area businesses and organizations have been delighted to contribute. Greater Cincinnati area Walmart locations provided funds for 7 schools’ bikes and provided ordering and delivery support for all 113 bikes for this year’s program.      

“We are proud of the important work that Kathie, CECH faculty, and the GCSC are doing through the STEM Bicycle Club and other initiatives,” said Lawrence J. Johnson, Dean of CECH. “Giving children real-world connections to STEM can go a long way in building their interest in these critical areas – and, ultimately, help foster interest in high-skilled, STEM-oriented careers.”

The Bicycle Club’s curriculum was developed by a cross-sector team of K-12 teachers, CECH education faculty and students, and GE. This team was led by a doctoral student in the CECH School of Education, Matt Guenther. The curriculum includes three critical elements:

  • emphasis of scientific and math principles tied to the Common Core and Ohio Science Learning Standards;
  • building students’ basic mechanical skills and comfort using tools;
  • methods to document their learning and experiences via journaling, which reinforces self-expression and literacy skills.

The project also helps students answer questions related to the 7th and 8th grade curriculum, such as “Why does the bike move forward when you pedal?”; “What are gear ratios?”; and “What determines a bike’s stability?”

Financial support for the project was provided by a diverse set of community partners including Time Warner Cable Connect a Million MindsTM, The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, and Walmart.  Additionally, GE has provided significant in-kind support by its strong involvement in curriculum development, bicycle and club materials selection and procurement, and by helping to prepare volunteer coaches from other local businesses and community organizations.