ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An educational program out of Barelas is combining outdoor exercise with storytelling even during the COVID-19 pandemic. In each session of Story Riders, students construct their own bikes and receive training in bicycle safety, basic maintenance and mechanics.
The program is still holding sessions but has now limited it to three students and two adult educators. The program usually partners with schools but due to COVID-19 and remote learning for Albuquerque Public Schools, its bike shop is currently operating out of Casa Barelas.
Marco Sandoval, program manager of Story Riders, said the program’s focus is to reconnect the children of Albuquerque to nature. “We work on bicycles and talk about bicycle safety, but then we use that as a vehicle to get to the bosque,” Sandoval said. “Which is where we believe the children of Albuquerque belong and where they can be happy and experience all the health benefits of being on a bike and being outside.”
In addition to learning about bike safety, the river, the trees that populate the bosque and the relationship humans have with the environment, the organization also seeks out a community elder to interview.
“The reason we do that is because storytelling is such a potent mode of knowledge-transmission,” Sandoval said. “We find that children really connect with that and it helps really drive home everything that they’re learning.”
While many organizations are struggling because of COVID-19, Story Riders provides a resource for students who might not get this otherwise.
“Our program was needed four years ago when we started, but I think now with the pandemic our program is absolutely more necessary than ever,” Sandoval said. “It has happened many times where we’re on a ride where a kid will pull me aside and say this program has helped provide their first experience with the bosque.”
The nonprofit was launched four years ago as a project from the Center of Southwest Culture. Each student in Story Riders receives a free bicycle, helmet and bike riding experience. The program relies on financial donations and bike donations to keep it running. Their next session begins Oct. 27.
(Photos above taken in March 2020)