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Kindergarten children at Confidence Elementary School in Poca, W.Va., learn how to ride bikes during physical education class through the All Kids Bike initiative.

POCA, W.Va. — Kindergarten students in Putnam County are learning balance, coordination and improving motor skills through a new activity offered in their physical education classes — bike riding.

Physical education teacher Andrea Combs at Confidence Elementary School in Poca, West Virginia, applied for a grant through the nationwide All Kids Bike program, an initiative through the Strider Education Foundation, which upon approval delivered the school 22 brand-new “balance bikes” that allow kids to get used to the feeling of riding before the addition of pedals.

So far, the movement has provided bikes to 157 schools in 29 states, affecting more than 25,000 students, according to its website.

“I actually found out about All Kids Bike at a motorcycle show in Columbus,” Combs said.

After discovering the program was for schools across the country, not just in Ohio, she applied for the grant online.

“Six weeks later, I got an email saying we were approved and I had to complete the curriculum online first,” Combs said. “That’s what triggered the shipment of bikes. Now that they are here, our kids are loving them.”

Combs said teaching small children to balance and pedal at the same time can be overwhelming, and the program has seen much success with the balance bikes that allow kids to propel themselves with their feet first.

“If you can teach them to get it going with balance, coordination and steering, then you add pedals later, it’s not so much in their little brains all at once,” Combs said. “I’ve had very good feedback from parents; they’re loving it because their kids are coming home saying, ‘Guess what we did?’”

Many of the students at CES live in rural areas with gravel or dirt driveways, meaning there isn’t a lot of space for kids to ride bikes at home, Combs said.

“We are out in the country, farm country, and there are not really subdivisions or a lot of concrete for kids to learn,” she said. “Some of them have never even touched a bicycle before.”

Hurricane Town Elementary School in Putnam County also received a set of bikes for its kindergarten students through the initiative.

Schools interested in obtaining bikes for their students can visit www.allkidsbike.org to learn more about and apply for the grant.

“If they have the interest and the space for the equipment, I definitely recommend applying,” Combs said. “The rewards are amazing.”

Follow reporter Hanna Pennington via Twitter @hpennHD.

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