Wheels-a-thon at Matthew Flinders Anglican College
Posted: 18 February 2022
Students from Prep to Year 6 at Matthew Flinders Anglican College on the Sunshine Coast raised more than $12,000 for World Bicycle Relief by designing a wheels-a-thon challenge.
The RS Student Committee wanted to raise awareness and develop empathy for those in developing regions of the world, who walk for miles each day just to survive. On foot, individuals race against the sun to complete everyday tasks. Distance is a barrier to attending school, receiving healthcare, and delivering goods to market. World Bicycle Relief, an organisation that provides bicycles to people in developing countries around the world, thereby giving them freedom and agency to enjoy basic needs.
The money raised helped to purchase as many bicycles as possible for people that needed them most, and, as an extra activity, students and their families were invited to cycle the equivalent of the Queensland border perimeter – that’s close to 10,000 kilometres!
Our wheels-a-thon challenge concept was simple: to plot the combined distance on a map of the border of Queensland to see if we could travel all the way around the State before the end of Term 4, Week 3, when all the classes will have completed their sponsored event. We set the target to raise as much money as possible for the charity in a fun and relatable way that would unite our school community.
To start, our RS Student Committee contacted World Bicycle Relief (WBR) for more information and then used this to share with our families to explain our goal. Two of our Year 6 students produced a video to share with the school community to promote the initiative and invited staff, students, mums, dads, siblings and grandparents to all take part.
Communication was key with regular reminders to collect sponsors, and the date of the event were sent to class teachers and students via internal communication, as well as parents. Students liaised with the Community Relations Team to post on social media, as well as covering the event with photography. The RS Student Committee spoke at assemblies and to each class promoting the work of WBR and explaining our event. The committee designed the sponsor form and gave them out to every student.
We calendarised each class’s event in as many PE lessons as possible, using this as a means to talk about bike safety, fitness, environmentalism and an appreciation of our freedom.
A Risk Management Action Plan was completed in plenty of time, involving the school’s OHS officer. We set up an account so that parents could pay in the sponsor money in one lump sum after their child’s ride, negating the need for students bringing in cash. Progress of money raised was sent out at regular intervals.
On the day of the event students brought in a bike and helmet (Year 3-6) or scooter and helmet (P-Year 2), which were stored in the bike shed at school, or on a roped around grassed area. They collected them at the start of their event and rode around an age-appropriate course in our under cover area or around the Ovals.
Each course was marked out on the morning of the ride, details were explained at the start, including safety, sensible behaviour, reminder why we were doing the event, and encouragement to do as many laps as possible, as an individual, but also united as a class.
They were sponsored by family and friends on the number of laps they travelled in a set time, or people could donate one amount for the cause. If students didn’t have access to a bike or scooter, they could opt to walk/run the laps.
Support staff armed with water bottles, stopwatches, megaphones, recording sheet for each class and pens, recorded the laps for each student and encouraging them as they rode. Safety was also monitored at each event by supervising staff.
The class list of resulting laps was sent to class teachers in case students forgot their score. We equated each class amalgamated total to a virtual distance ridden from school, i.e. ‘class 4P managed to cycle to Brisbane CBD today’, just as an added incentive. At the end of each class event, students were congratulated, reminded of next steps, and another reminder of why we were doing this, including the ongoing community challenge of using bikes to cycle around the Queensland border.
Sponsorship money and donations were paid into a school account via a TryBooking link to keep the collection process efficient and easy. Once all monies were paid by the closing date, we contacted WBR to send in the money along with some photos.
Some class events clashed with secondary school recess/lunchtimes, resulting in the Oval needing to accommodate not only the cycle course, but also a play space for secondary students. Liaison with secondary staff wasn’t as thorough as it should have been, on the need to supervise older students in a restricted space and not to impact those cycling.
The Oval course was weather dependent, and whilst we were incredibly lucky, postponing only one class event, this is a definite consideration if there is no alternative under cover or indoor space.
Our RS Student Committee were really able to develop their leadership skills and take ownership of this project which gave them a sense of shared responsibility and accomplishment.
The Wheels-a-thon definitely brought the Primary community together as a whole. Grandparents, parents and students all got involved, sending in photos of them cycling at weekends, learning to ride a bike for the first time, and comments of support as we achieved our progress.
This imitative really helped to promote international understanding through exposing our students to ideas and concepts from different cultures and countries, by challenging them to understand and tackle this real-world issue. We all developed an appreciation of freedom, understanding the basic challenges facing countries less fortunate, and how we can all have a part to play in helping.
All students learnt more about bicycle safety, thinking about something bigger than themselves, and pushing themselves physically for a worthwhile result. It’s also nice to think that by encouraging our families to cycle rather than drive, this exercise helped reduce carbon emissions and helped protect the planet too.
As a school that’s new to Round Square, this project was part of our initiative to embed the ethos and values of Round Square within our students, and the start of raising the profile of Round Square within our community. This was a fun and activity that allowed us to live all of the IDEALS and Discoveries, linking the philosophy to what we do as a school.
We wanted students to be involved in something beyond their usual vicinity, expanding their understanding of global issues and impact, and developing empathy, as well as a sense of action. In 2022, we may use a triathlon event to incorporate another cycling fundraiser for WBR.
The funds raised go directly to World Bicycle Relief who donate Buffalo Bicycles, designed for distance and durability, to children in rural areas, such as in sub-Saharan Africa where 34 million children are out of school.
The donation of a bicycle can help a child in a developing country to attend school regularly and complete their education, which in the long term helps prepare them for better jobs and reduces the likelihood of extreme poverty.
- Do it!
- Talk to someone who has done something similar.
- Explore the potential to link this type of event with units of work for a more multi-faceted approach.
- Ensure the actual event will be supported by staff, both preparatory phase and at each class event. Plenty of reminders to parents and students during the whole project.
Author: Judy Parker, Round Square Rep, Matthew Flinders Anglican College