This spring, the AWS middle school students are learning to ride unicycles. “Why does my child need to learn to ride a unicycle?” you might ask. Well, it’s not necessarily to encourage them to run away with the circus, even though that sounds kind of fun. Learning to ride a unicycle is a challenging feat that few people can pick up quickly. It takes time and perseverance to build both the strength and balance needed to keep a unicycle upright and moving. It offers an opportunity for the students to work together and support each other throughout this difficult endeavor, and it meets the adolescent right where they are developmentally.
Puberty is a time of imbalance and humility. The changes that young adolescents go through at this time in their lives, both physically and emotionally, can be daunting and difficult for them to understand. This is where the magic of the unicycle comes in. At a time of physical and hormonal imbalance, learning to ride allows the child to strive to find a new sense of balance and strength within themselves. Riding also encourages a bodily uprightness that counteracts the great feelings of gravity that the young adolescent is feeling for the first time. There is also the falling. The first thing we learn after we learn how to mount the unicycle is how to fall safely. Learning to ride a unicycle is a process of falling and getting back up. This is analogous to so many other emotional, social, and intellectual situations in life. Giving the student a safe and supportive place to strive and fail encourages a sense of humility for themselves and their peers.
And finally, learning to ride a unicycle is just plain fun. The children have a great time learning to ride together and feel so much joy and excitement for their own accomplishments, and for the accomplishments of their friends. I am very lucky to to get the opportunity to watch these students grow and succeed every day.