March 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Stationary Bikes Join Books in Virginia School Library


bikes_schools_WP_2_17_14Would you rather burn a few pounds or read that next chapter of the latest Printz award winner? Thanks to the addition of four new recumbent bicycles installed at the school library at Falls Church (VA) High School, students don’t have to choose. They can fit in some of their recommended daily physical activity while simultaneously catching up on reading and schoolwork.

With lean budgets and a decreased emphasis in some schools on time spent at play, schools across the country are on the lookout for new and innovative opportunities to “kill two birds with one stone,” says Falls Church High librarian Laura Potocki, who wrote a successful Healthy Kids grant to fund the purchase and installation of the machines.

“I wanted to find a way to bring more active students into the library to read and/or study; giving them an opportunity to exert energy while reading in a safe environment seemed like the way to go,” Potocki said.

The successful grant was approved last October, and Potocki and her fellow Falls Church High librarian Carrie Kausch set up a corner of the library dedicated to the theme of health and fitness, she says.

They also added relevant magazine subscriptions to the collection, moved all of their periodicals over to the new “Wellness Corner,” and spruced up the overall library space so it now supports a healthy “teen-life balance.”

The high school’s new school-wide Read & Ride program encourages students and staff to keep detailed logs of their bike sessions, which includes data on miles biked, as well as the number of pages read.

“Read & Ride ties in with our school-wide reading incentive program, The Nifty 50, where students and staff are encouraged to read 50 books during the school year,” Potocki adds.

Thus far, she says she’s pleased to see her students getting so much satisfaction out of the new bikes, but she’s non-committal about any expansion of the initiative in the near-term.

“I don’t know that we’ll add more bikes any time soon,” she says, “but I’m looking into a grant to get yoga ball chairs at some of our computer stations.”

In the meantime, she says the response to the bikes has been overwhelming. “Just about every librarian in the county has e-mailed their congratulations,” she says. The Falls Church High administration, as well as parents, have been overwhelmingly supportive. One parent even e-mailed her recently, calling the new bikes “the coolest idea ever,” says Potocki.