22 Third Graders, 12 Miles: Anishinabe Academy Students Bike to the Bakken Museum

If you were biking on the Midtown Greenway last month, you may have noticed a large, happy group of kids pedaling along. Those students were 22 third-graders from Anishinabe Academy in Minneapolis, headed on a very special, 12-mile round trip biking field trip to the Bakken Museum. They were accompanied by a group of supporters, including family members, school staff and their classroom teacher, Kim Vickery, who had been working on biking skills with her students since September. 

The field trip was the culmination of the class’ hard work and perseverance practicing biking skills throughout their school year at Anishinabe Academy, a Minneapolis Public Community School where 80% of the students are Native American. The outing both celebrated students’ accomplishments in biking and enabled them to participate in hands-on science activities and games at the museum. And, of course, there were popsicles. 

A group of children and adults on bikes pauses at a marked road crossing along the Greenway. Trees, a bridge, and blue sky are visible in the background. Bikers are wearing yellow and orange safety vests.
Ms. Vickery’s third grade class at Anishinabe Academy along their 12-mile bike route from their school to the Bakken Museum. Photo: Evangeline Holley.

Patience and Repeated Practice

Ms. Vickery used the curriculum from Walk! Bike! Fun!, a program funded through the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School Program, to teach her students biking skills. Many students in Ms. Vickery’s class had previous biking experience, but every year about a half dozen are learning to bike for the first time. 

Prior to heading out on their first ride, each student was fitted with a helmet which was then labeled with their name for future use. Students rode bikes obtained by physical education teacher Chad Dubbeldee.

Homepage of the 'Walk! Bike! Fun!' program, features a large group of children on bicycles, some with American flags.
Ms. Vickery used the ‘Walk! Bike! Fun!’ curriculum to work on biking skills with her students.

Before heading out on their bikes for the first time, the class practiced doing ABC quick checks on their bikes. This procedure entails checking that the tires are inflated, the brakes are working, the chain is shifting properly and the quick release (if applicable) is tight. Then, students who had previous bike experience did laps around the schoolyard while those who were learning to bike practiced balancing and pedaling skills. To practice balancing, Ms. Vickery worked with beginning bike riders to coast down a small hill and where they could pedal around the school playground at the bottom. Once students were comfortable riding their bikes, she taught braking and biking in a group. She then added a new skill to each group bike ride, such as going downhill, going over train tracks, rules of trail riding, how to handle a stop sign and how to put a chain back on a bike. 

Ms. Vickery stresses the importance of “patience and repeated practice” when teaching bike skills to students, adding that “once they learn the skill we bike on the Greenway and practice it. I try to not spend too much time going over skills but instead I get them out on the trails.” While some students learned biking after just a few sessions, others persisted at learning for months — and all 22 of her students were proficient riders by May! 

“Some students are nervous at first because they cannot bike or are not confident in their biking skills,” Ms. Vickery says. “Once they have some experience they gain confidence and they are proud of themselves when we complete the longer biking rides. They ask if we can go biking pretty much every week. When I say we are biking, they are thrilled to get on the bikes — they can barely contain their excitement. When students who started the year as non-bikers learn how to bike, they have the biggest grins on their faces. It is my favorite moment.”

Gearing Up for a Field Trip

Ms. Vickery has been taking her students on bike rides since 2018. In past years, their longest ride has been an afternoon outing to Bde Maka Ska for a treat. For a long time, she has wanted to do a longer, full-day bike trip to a fun, educational destination. The Bakken Museum, which is located in close proximity to the Greenway and features hands-on science learning opportunities, seemed like a great fit. However, funding for field trips was tight. 

In 2023, a new partnership brought an opportunity to make this goal a reality. Anishinabe Academy became an educational partner of Fostering Opportunities and Relationships in STEM Education (FORSE), a program operated by the Minnesota Academy of Science. FORSE facilitated field trips to the Como Zoo, Science Museum of Minnesota and The Works Museum for the school’s students. Ms. Vickery saw an opportunity to make her plan of an all-day biking field trip to the Bakken a reality, and FORSE was able to fund museum admission for her students. 

“As busing gets increasingly expensive and harder to book, finding creative ways to get kids out into the world is more and more important,” says Evangeline Holley, FORSE program manager. “Biking added a huge element of anticipation and joy to this special field trip.”

Ms. Vickery is thankful that Anishinabe Academy is located right off the Greenway. She notes that the great biking infrastructure in this area of Minneapolis was important to the field trip. “On the Greenway I knew most crossings were protected so students would be safe. It was a big consideration in choosing a field trip location,” she said.

The Big Day

On a sunny day in May when the 22 third-graders began their 12-mile journey, the class was in a celebratory mood. Full of smiles and excitement, the students and their supporters — which included volunteers with tandem bikes, the school nurse, other school staff and students’ family members — headed west along the Midtown Greenway to their appointment at the Bakken Museum.

Students with safety vests in a line on their bicycles in the school yard.
Students set out on their field trip, biking north of the school to the Greenway. Photo: Evangeline Holley.

As Ms. Vickery had planned, the Greenway made most of the bike ride relatively safe. Staff and volunteers were spread out among the students to assist students when the Greenway met with roads and transitioned to Bde Mka Ska Parkway to the west of the lake.

A line of children and adults biking across a marked street crossing. One adult has dismounted their bike and is standing in the road to aid in traffic control.
Adults were spread out within the group and assisted at street crossings. Photo: Evangeline Holley.
A group of children and adults on bike pause under a large, leafy tree along a road. A lake is visible in the background.
The group exited the Greenway to bike along the western edge of Bde Mka Ska on their route to the Bakken Museum. Photo: Evangeline Holley.

“Some students were nervous — especially in the morning before starting — but some students were so excited that they were making laps around the parking lot while everyone else was getting set up!” remembers Ms. Holley. “One student fell off her bike at the beginning, but got back on and finished the whole bike ride, and I know she was proud. When we got back, the physical education teacher at Anishinabe Academy was outside with an older class of students and cheered on the group as they arrived back at school. Students then enjoyed well-deserved popsicles provided by a parent. It felt like a celebration for what the students had done by biking.”

A group of children and adults park their bikes on racks. A museum and a lake are visible in the background.
The group arrives at the Bakken Museum. Photo: Evangeline Holley.

The bike ride wasn’t the only exciting aspect of the day. At the Bakken, students investigated the properties of magnets and compasses through hands-on, fun activities. Then, they split up into small groups to explore museum exhibits. “The chance to go to The Bakken was a dream come true for me,” Ms. Vickery says. “We had never been to The Bakken so all of it was new and interesting… the way they kept things moving kept students interested and engaged.”

Three students make shapes in front of a display featuring lights inside a museum.
Students enjoyed a magnet workshop and a tour of the Bakken Museum. Photo: Evangeline Holley.

So after a year of practicing bike skills and all the time and energy dedicated to the trip, what does Ms. Vickery think about a similar event in the future? 

I will absolutely be doing this again next year,” she affirms. “Maybe we will add another field trip too!”

About Emily Shepard

Emily Shepard first attempted to share her interest in history by creating a hot pink history book costume for trick or treating in '91, which was ineffective due to The Great Halloween Blizzard. Her favorite modes of transportation are sauntering and rambling, with an occasional constitutional.