LEAD Cameron serves its diverse student population through a unique initiative called the GreenHouse program, which supports students who are new to the United States and learning English. At the end of the 2022-23 school year, it was clear to Lindsay Roe, a GreenHouse English teacher at Cameron, that her students needed more opportunities for technical, procedural writing and reading. From this need, an innovative partnership was born – one that gave students the opportunity to build their own bicycles!
Roe first met Dan Furbish, owner at Nashville’s Oasis Bike Workshop, through the Educators’ Cooperative, a professional collaborative network for teachers. The pair began meeting regularly to initiate a partnership between Cameron and Furbish’s bike workshop.
Roe and Furbish decided bike building would become part of students’ English class and would complement a unit centered around the question, “How did you build that, precisely?” This partnership would provide students a unique experience to build their technical skills in a practical way and then reflect on the process through writing.
To start, the Oasis Bike Shop team visited LEAD Cameron to help students pick the bike parts they wanted to order, which made the process personal for students. The team then came to class for an additional nine days with all the equipment necessary to help 35 students build their bikes using the parts they selected.
“This experience benefitted students because they got to experience learning through hands-on application,” said Aislinn O’Brien, a GreenHouse teacher who led students through the bike building process. “They learned how to assemble a bike, but also how to fix bikes that have flat tires. They now feel like experts in problem solving and working together.”
Bike building not only allowed students to enhance their technical knowledge, it also inspired new relationships with community members at Oasis. “My favorite part of this partnership experience was seeing the joy that was brought to our students and the bonds they made with the Oasis staff,” said O’Brien.
“[Oasis staff] really showed up for our kids and quickly adapted to the unique needs of newcomer students,” said Shay Weiser, another GreenHouse teacher. “By modeling the steps visually and using labels to help students apply their vocabulary in the moment, students at all language levels were able to experience success.”
At LEAD, our mission is to prepare students for college and life. The bike-building process provided students with a new form of transportation and recreation, as well as encouraged them to carry their newfound skills forward into a potential career.
“They were so happy to be building their own bike and making it unique to them,” said O’Brien. “Every day, one student always said, ‘I’m a mechanic!’ It was awesome to hear students think about how this could be applied to a future profession one day.”
Once their bikes were finally complete, students embarked on a field trip to ride their bikes together. Some students were even learning how to ride bikes for the very first time, with the support of their classmates and teachers.
“Nothing beats the joy on the students’ faces when we went on a group bike ride and they got to use the brakes and change the gears that they repaired with their own two hands,” said Weiser.
GreenHouse teachers delivered students’ bikes to their homes in the evenings, which reinforced family-school connections and allowed parents to see their students’ schoolwork come to life in a tangible way.
With a sense of accomplishment, students are currently working on their technical manuals, reflecting on the steps of building their bike and continuing to strengthen their procedural writing skills.
See more photos from the project below!