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Middle school unicycle class provides after-school lessons for students

When students walk into Tim Nieuwsma’s after-school unicycle class at Nooksack Valley Middle School they generally enter at a level playing field. The area director for Youth Dynamics and a volunteer at the school likes it that way.

“It brings groups together that wouldn’t normally be together,” he says. “Everyone is on a level playing field to start and the lessons about perseverance and not giving up are amazing.”

Nieuwsma started the class, part of Nooksack Valley Middle’s after-school enrichment opportunities that run one day per week for eight-week sessions, a few years ago with the help of another Youth Dynamics volunteer. “I work with a team of volunteers and we work with whatever people God brings me and the resources I have,” he says.

One of his volunteers at the time was a member of an international unicycle demonstration team and knew the value unicycle could bring students. “She knew that it would be a good program and I continue to do it because I recognize the quality lessons that come from it.”

Currently Nieuwsma has 14 students in the class, with available space a limiting factor, but he offers the eight-week session more than once per year.

“My goal is to help students make it through the different levels of unicycle,” he says. “I really appreciate how willing middle school students are to tackle something that they might even think is scary or difficult. They are willing to give it a try and I appreciate that attitude.”

Unicycle has differing standardized levels and Nieuwsma says he aims to get a student through the first level after eight — or a few more — sessions of the class. Level one involves students mounting the unicycle on their own, riding the length of a basketball court, turning around for a return trip and then a graceful dismount to cap off the ride.

“A lot of my motivation is encouraging and pushing students to make it to that level where they didn’t just kind of dabble in it, but were able to ride and make it,” he says. “It can take quite a while for some people and other people pick it up in just a few hours of work.”

Along the way, though, Nieuwsma knows students learn valuable lessons while tackling a skill outside the norm.