Igniting the spark

A new program offers kids a chance to spin out their anxiety, promising to make classrooms across Atlantic Canada a calmer place to learn.

Igniting the spark

A new program in Halifax, Nova Scotia is giving kids the opportunity to spin off their stress. Sparks Fly is a unique program bringing stationary spin bikes into elementary schools, providing a preventative tool to combat negative behaviour in classrooms.

A Halifax business owner Luke MacDonald is a leading member in the program. The idea was, well, sparked when he attended a think tank on self-regulation hosted by Dr. Stuart Shanker.

Self-regulation is the idea that children have the ability to understand how to calm themselves when they are anxious or otherwise restless. As MacDonald would learn, a little movement is proven to be a useful strategy so they can maintain control over their emotions.

After listening to Shanker describe this method, MacDonald instantly flashed back to his younger years where his father, according to MacDonald, “regulated me through running. When I thought about that in terms of the schools I was interested in seeing how can we help these kids that may not have been as lucky as I was to have a dad who knew what he had to do to help me get through school.”

Looking to put a new spin on an old trick, a few months later a friend introduced MacDonald to the mini, near-silent stationary spin bike and Sparks Fly was born. When MacDonald took the bike into schools to see if teachers would be interested, positive reactions greeted him at every turn.

According to MacDonald one of the most unique things is seeing how differently each school utilizes the bikes. In the program’s infancy, the user’s manual created by MacDonald and his team quickly went out the window happily, allowing each school to integrate their own methods. Even the names change from school to school. From the Spark Brain Bike in one school to the Peace Bike in another. “If we put rules on it, we would lose the opportunity to find a language we have to speak,” says MacDonald. “Realistically we have to speak a different language in every school.”

Even at the elementary level the children are beginning to recognize when to use the bikes. “The elementary students will put their hand up and say ‘oh, can I get on the bike? I’m feeling a little stressed.’ And they just get on the bike themselves,” says MacDonald. And the gospel continues to spread. The bikes are graduating and making their way into the high school level. MacDonald hopes they will soon break into the junior high schools as well.

Today, according to MacDonald there are now 15-16 schools in the province, with approximately four schools in New Brunswick, with whom he and the Sparks Fly program have become involved. “Some people just get it right away. I don’t have to sell this to anybody.”

For more information, please visit the “Sparks Fly” Facebook page:

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