Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Homemade Energy Bar Recipe

Just in time for the holidays, here's a killer recipe for some homemade energy bars, crafted by one of our volunteers -- they'll be sure to give you the fuel you need to power through a gnarly bike ride in the snow! (This guy just ate one ----->)

Peanut Cereal Butter Bars

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup corn syrup

1 cup sugar

4 cups Grape Nuts or Cheerios

¾ cups protein powder

Mix peanut butter, corn syrup and sugar. Microwave on high in two minute intervals until mixture boils. After the first two minutes stir every one minute. When mixture comes to a boil add cereal and gradually add powder. Make sure to mix well. Press mixture into a 9x13 inch greased (butter tastes best) pan. Cool. Cut. Place into individual plastic wrap or baggies (they get hard if the dry out). Yields 30+/- Enjoy!!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

HighScope Model: Supportive Environment

Here at the CBC we strive to create and maintain a supportive environment in the shop, a place where participants can express themselves, learn, and grow. A supportive environment makes up the second level of the HighScope Youth Quality Program Assessment model, after a safe environment.

HighScope identifies six ways that staff and volunteers can encourage a supportive environment: staff encourage youth-centered approaches to reframe conflict; staff support youth with encouragement; staff support youth in building new skills; activities support active engagement; session flow is planned, presented, and paced for youth; and staff provides a welcoming atmosphere.

Here are a few ways we brainstormed to help encourage a supportive environment --
  1. Greet participants by name as they enter the shop
  2. Ask them what they prefer to work on, allow them flexibility
  3. Don't do the work for them -- help them when they need it. Allow participants to go try new things, but be on the lookout for frustration.
  4. Give a heads-up in advance of clean-up time (usually 4:45)
  5. When conflict arises, help to diffuse it in constructive ways (it's always ok to take a break -- more about that in a later post...)
  6. Diffuse inappropriate or harmful language or behavior when you first see it-- it's not ok to put another participant down, and they need to know the staff and volunteers will not stand for it
As a volunteer, how else might you help encourage a supportive environment?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Introduction to Rotational Systems

Last week, the CBC staff gathered before the shop opened for a mechanical tutorial -- the subject was bottom brackets (around which the pedals turn), but here's a little introduction to rotational systems in general.

A "rotational system" is any part of the bike that involves circular motion -- the wheels (hubs), steering (headset), and the drive-train (bottom bracket). Each of these parts of the bike operates in a similar way, containing a set of parts that work together to allow smooth, but solid, motion.

Perhaps the most important part of rotational system is the bearings, small metal balls that reduce friction by distributing the pressure placed upon them. Before they were invented, bikes weren't nearly as smooth or comfortable to ride, in fact they were called "boneshakers" and looked like this -- ouch!

For more information about rotational systems (specifically bottom brackets), check out chapter 3 of the Bikes Not Bombs training manual. Jim Langley has a great page that offers a step-by-step guide to overhauling hubs.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Maine DHHS Mandated Reporter Training

While we always try to keep the shop as positive an environment as possible, we must always be mindful of the experiences participants are having outside the shop. If you ever suspect that a child has been the victim of abuse or neglect, as employees and volunteers ("Mandated Reporters" under Maine law) we have a moral and legal obligation to file a report with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

It's certainly not a pleasant thing to think about, but education is probably the best way to recognize and deal with these harsh realities. The Maine DHHS encourages to look out for physical and behavioral indicators, available here.

All CBC staff complete mandated reporter training and it's suggested that you do too -- it doesn't take long and is available here.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Parts of a Bicycle

An important first step for improving one's bicycle mechanic skills is to be familiar with the parts of a bicycle. Knowing the difference between a "rim", "tire", and "wheel" will make fixing your bike easier, as well as helping avoid sometimes awkward conversations with bike shop employees!

Most of the parts of the bike are fairly intuitive, though there are some tricky ones. Here's a diagram of the basic parts of a bicycle -- his one happens to be a mountain bike: (Click for larger view)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Volunteering for Bike Part Art

Here's a special message from Ann, our Bike Art Coordinator --

Bike Part Art is the drop-in studio offering of the Community Bicycle Center, held on Wednesdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. The mission is to provide children an opportunity for self expression while confirming the value of recycling through the use of spare bicycle parts. Children also have the opportunity to create bicycle-themed artwork through a painting or drawing; helping them to document and reflect on their other experiences at the CBC such as bike trips, working with mentors or participating in the Trek Across Maine.

Projects so far have included jewelry, mosaics, sculpture and mobiles. Children can select a project based on samples created for the program by the art coordinator or explore their individual interests with the materials on hand. New techniques or projects are introduced monthly. The goal of the class is to promote self-expression and reinforce problem solving and fine motor skills while supporting the values of the CBC in terms of respect, collaboration and appropriate interactions with staff and peers.

Bike Part Art projects are often carried over from week to week so that a child can thoroughly explore them without the pressure to move on to the next project as is usually the case in most school art classes. The room is set up in work stations so that each child can choose the activity that most interests them and have the materials and tools they need at hand . Visual aids in terms of photographs of sculpture & folk art, sample projects, and art books are posted or available in the room and these can often provoke conversations and ideas to stimulate imaginations.

Volunteers may actively assist by holding parts, participating in problem solving or giving feedback. Volunteers to the program enrich the student's experience by arriving with their own unique skills and interests that can inspire more creativity for our young artists. It is not necessary for volunteers to have an art background—just enthusiasm, curiosity and a love of working with kids!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Maine Rules of the Road

Did you know that Maine law requires a headlight and tail light visible to up to 500 feet? Did you know that riders under 16 are required to wear a helmet and may be subject to a $25 fine if they fail to do so? (But it's always a good idea of every cyclist, of course!)

The Bicycle Coalition of Maine has a great one-pager that outlines all the basic stuff. Check it out here. Before all rides, it is very important that participants understand how to safely and legally ride in roads. Riding in a straight line is difficult for many younger kids, and traffic can be intimidating even for the most seasoned rider -- if you ever feel unsafe, it's always ok to step off your bicycle and "become a pedestrian".

And here's a great road safety video (especially for our ride chaperones!), produced by the League of American Bicyclists. Included is the ABC Quick Check, a tool we often use for making sure bikes are safe to ride:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"There's nothing for me to do!"

Recently we've noticed that lots of kids are coming in, looking to spend time in the shop and not particularly interested in fixing up a bike for themselves. Here's a brainstormed list of things that anyone can do:
  1. Make a bike stool
  2. Organize parts bins
  3. Clean parts in parts bins
  4. Make/write thank you notes for volunteers or participants
  5. Disassemble a bike for parts
  6. Help with someone else's project
  7. Fix a bike to donate to the shop
  8. Fix a bike for the shop to sell
  9. Take pictures of people/projects in the shop
  10. Make some bike art
  11. Design a new logo for the shop/a special event
  12. Make a poster to promote biking/the shop
  13. Find catalog codes for items on the needs list
  14. Organize the bike rooms/fold bikes
  15. Make homemade bike tools
  16. Design a t-shirt for a special event
  17. Decorate a helmet
  18. Interview volunteers/participants for feedback
And that's just a few of them!

HighScope Model: Safe Environment

The Community Bicycle Center uses the HighScope Educational Research Foundation model for quality youth programs (more info here) to help guide our program quality improvement. The model identifies five areas to pay attention to: psychological and emotional safety are promoted, the physical environment is safe and free of health hazards, emergency procedures and supplies are present, program space and furniture accommodate activities, and healthy food and drinks are provided.

While this may seem like an abstract concept, there are a few things to keep in mind as you work with kids in the shop or out on a ride. Our guiding children's behavior plan (a.k.a. behavior management plan) identifies six rights, one of which is safety.

Here are some tips for promote physical safety:
1. Ask and learn how to use tools safely and to pick the appropriate one -- accidents happen when you least expect them, so always be on the lookout!
2. Tell each other when you notice something unsafe. There are lots of sharp things in the shop, and keep an eye on the people around you.
3. Keep the work area clean and organized. Don't leave tools on the floor, and clean up messes quickly (especially the oily ones!)
4. If you're hungry or thirsty, grab a drink or a snack (just ask one of the staff).

For emotional safety:
1. Take a break when you are feeling frustrated or angry.
2. Use respectful language, and remind others when they forget to do so.
3. Recognize that everyone's situation is different, and so are their personalities.
4. Perhaps most importantly, make sure to communicate. It's the first step towards understanding.

What are some tips that you have found helpful for promoting a physically and emotionally safe environment in the shop or on bike rides?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Tips for Mentoring with Bike Repair (Part One of Many)

From time to time, everyone has a difficult or frustrating afternoon in the shop -- at our staff meeting last Monday, we added to an ongoing list of tips to keep in mind when you're fixing up a bike during our daily drop-ins:

-No two people learn the same way, and it never hurts to ask a student what works best for them.
-Quite often a step backwards precedes a big step forward.
-Mentors and students have equal footing in the shop, but it is most often up to the mentor to lead.
-Teach by example, even when clueless -- learning together teaches how to learn.
-Expect to be tested by students (and when it happens, don't take it personally).
-Consistency goes a long way.
-Set boundaries, and respect them. Ask for student input regularly.
-When frustrated, it's ok to walk away and return with a fresh perspective.
-Disrespectful language and behavior are not acceptable -- the shop must be a safe place for everyone.

More to come, so stay posted!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

First post of the Community Bicycle Center Blog!

Hello CBCers,

Welcome to the brand new CBC blog! This site will serve as a forum to share experiences and ideas, and everyone is welcome to participate. In addition to updating all of you in cyberspace with the daily happenings at the shop, we will also be posting resources to supplement our volunteer and skills trainings.

Happy cycling (and don’t forget to subscribe),

Community Bicycle Center