Summer break is upon us and households have already begun pulling their bikes out of storage. Brakes are being checked, tires are being filled, and handlebar bells are enthusiastically ringing. It’s great that you and the kids will be getting outdoors to ride as a family, but did you know that you can also use the time to create valuable outdoor learning experiences? Not only does it add another layer of fun, it helps prevent learning loss that science shows occurs over summer vacation. In honor of the season (and UN-designated World Bike Day-June 3) we have provided some outdoor education “by bike” ideas below, activities that will work well in nearly any community across Canada.

3 Ways to Turn Family Bike Rides into Fun and Educational Outdoor Learning Experiences for Kids

1. Bike Through an Ecological Reserve

From coast to coast there are ecological reserves that boast numerous trails for the public to bike and enjoy. Find one near you that offers a lot of online information about the animals, insects (pollinators!) and plants natural to the area. Create a scavenger hunt checklist so that your kids know what to keep an eye out for as you ride along the trails. One great example is found in Lower Mainland – Boundary Bay Regional Park, which according to eBird, hosts 216 unique species of feathered friends, in addition to rabbits, frogs, salamanders, bees, garter snakes, flora, and so much more. The trail leads to and from a large beach, which increases the number of species to add to the list. In addition to finding an eco-park near your home, you can also add this learning activity to your vacation destination itinerary as there will surely be a bike rental in the area that you can take advantage of.

2. Community Garden Bike Tour

Start by creating a map of local community gardens that are close to a family friendly bike route. You can get the kids involved in the initial process by having them get creative with a paper map, and/or simply add the coordinates to your smartphone/tablet GPS app from the get-go. Each community garden and urban farm offers an opportunity to teach your children about horticulture, nutritious foods, and the entire seed to table process. Be sure to include one or two “u-pick” gardens (where possible) on your map and bring along a bike basket to load your two-wheeled vessels up with fresh fruit and veggies for refueling as you expend energy on your journey.

3. Mountain Biking (and Learning) Tour

You’ll need to pull out the mountain bikes (or rentals) for this one, but it will be well worth it because your local mountain trail has a bounty of learning opportunities along it’s rugged path. Many people don’t consider the importance of mountains when it comes to the impact they have on communities, which is why the UN created an annual World Mountain Day (in December). The annual event informs the public (especially kids) about the critical role of mountains in sustainable economic growth for many cities and townships across the world, while serving as a source of nourishment for over 13 percent of the world’s population. Mountains are also home to pollinators, fauna, and flora that are essential to our survival. 
Households across Canada have access to mountain biking trails for a wide variety of ages and skill levels. Since World Mountain Day falls in the late autumn, you may as well pick a warm summer day to recognize the geological wonder’s significance in your region. Before going, gather as much information about local wildlife and vegetation as you can, and find out which tributaries feed local water reserves (where applicable) so that you and your kids can identify and log these features along the way.

If you would like to know more about our work to help support Canada’s youth with outdoor learning initiatives, please sign-up to become a Friend of the Foundation.

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