Thinking Big: A Learning Expedition about Bikes

I spent the last few days of Carnaval in Ilha Bela with my boyfriend.  We stayed in a small posada run by two architects, one of which had begun building his own bicycles after attending a week-long course on bicycle-making in London.  My boyfriend and I are cycling enthusiasts – so much so that we have both braved the crowded and not-so-empathetic streets of Sao Paulo.  Naturally, we got to talking about building bikes.

Immediately I thought this would make a great learning expedition.  If you are unfamiliar with learning expeditions, they are basically units in Expeditionary Learning schools.  However, the main difference between units and expeditions is that, when executed expertly, expeditions have real final products that students make for compelling reasons.  They present these products to a real audience and use real world experts along the way to make this happen.

So I thought: what if I could create an interdisciplinary unit called The Future of Transportation?  This expedition would encompass science, math, humanities, physical education, and art.  In this unit students would study the mechanics and environmental impact of transportation in science, the mathematics needed to construct a bicycle and a bike lane, historical case studies of transportation and its effects on societies in humanities, the effects of different forms of transportation on the body in physical education (as well as proper cycling form), and beautiful designs for a bicycle and urban planning in art.  As a final product students would use the research and writing skills they acquired through the expedition to write a proposal that would outline how to improve transportation, traffic, and the environment by adding more bicycle lanes to the city and making bicycles more easily accessible to all.  They would then design their own bicycle (or other transportation invention) for the city’s rent-a-bike program.  They could even prototype their invention on quirky.

I would love to hear if you have ever done a bicycle or transportation expedition or if you have ideas about how a teacher can go about raising money for something like this!


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