Students explore their new home by bikeby Jim Bickal, Minnesota Public Radio
A new group of riders is discovering the Twin Cities bike trail system. They are students at the Wellstone International High School in Minneapolis. The school is designed for high school-age students who are new to the country. For the last two years, the school has sponsored a bike club where students learn how to ride and get a chance to explore the area.
Minneapolis, Minn. — On the Greenway bike trail near the Lehmann Education Center, where their school is located, about 30 mostly East African students put on their helmets and get ready for today's ride.
One teacher, Mohamed Nur Mohamed, is working with a new immigrant from Somalia who is just learning to ride a bike. Today's lesson -- always pedal in the same direction.
The leader of the bike club is Jeff Carlson, who also teaches math at the Wellstone school. Twice a week, he takes the students for a ride. On this day, they will be going to the Walker Art Center's Sculpture Garden.
"Today we are going to see a big spoon and a big cherry. You know cherry, the fruit, with the little stem. There's only one big spoon and cherry in the whole world, and it's right here in Minneapolis," explains Carlson.
"We're going to be riding a little bit on the street. So, what side do we stay on? Always on the right, especially when we're on the street," he continues. "Now, when we're on the street should I ride next to my friend and be talking to him? No. Or should we go one, one, one? You know what that's called? Single file."
Before they depart, Carlson helps one student learn how to use the gears on his bike.
Another student, Alamin Wahila, is a more accomplished rider. This is his second year in the bike club.
"Everybody is having fun. A lot of students know how to ride a bike, I think, because it's better than last year," says Wahila. "Last year, many students didn't know how to ride a bike, but now you can see that everybody's riding. So, it's really great progress."
Carlson says his students have surprised him in a number of ways.
"How fast they learn how to ride, and also that it's very easy to ride a bicycle in traditional Islamic clothing. Women have come out and they pull up their skirts, and underneath they've got sweatpants on, and they take off riding their bikes down the Greenway," Carlson says. "And they learn incredibly fast, even though some of them never rode a bike before. It seems like it takes two or three days and then they're really cookin.'"
The bikes are all donated, and over the winter the students learned how to maintain and repair them. Some students use the bikes to get between their home and school. Carlson says the bikes help the students get around and experience the area in a new way.
"There's a part of the trail system where you're connecting from Lake of the Isles over to Lake Calhoun, and you go under a bridge and you kind of just see Lake Calhoun spread out before you," says Carlson. "The word for lake in Somali is baad. And I heard people just shouting BAAD! BAAD! And the word for big is weyne and so BAAD WEYNE! BAAD WEYNE!"
One of Carlson's students, Azad Abdullahi, chimes in.
"Baad weyne, yeah, that's my language. Yeah. My teacher, he knows a lot of language -- Somali, Oroma, Ethopian, Spanish and then English."
Abdullahi says he likes Minneapolis.
"It seems good because I live. It's very good. Every morning I go to school. Then I go my home and I do homework," says Abdullahi.
Abdullahi says after high school, he hopes to attend college and become a dentist. For now, he is a student and bike club member at the Wellstone International High School in Minneapolis.
- Morning Edition, 05/18/2006, 7:54 a.m.