Better World Initiative loaned unicycles to schools throughout NZ for more than 15 years. We reserved some of these unicycles so they are available specifically for low decile schools in South Auckland – this gave students a chance to experience something (the excitement of unicycling) that they would probably never experience otherwise.
Up until 2012, we worked with UNIcycle Shop NZ, loaning 50 unicycles to schools around NZ (on a buy-one, borrow-one deal). At the end of each school year, each school was given the option to either purchase the loaned unicycles (at a discounted price), or to return them. Between 2009 and 2012, more than 100 schools around New Zealand received unicycles thanks to this buy-one, borrow-one deal. When UNIcycle Shop NZ closed down (at the start of 2012), we began purchasing unicycles from Unicycle.co.nz and so that we could continue to loan them out to schools around New Zealand.
Unicycle.co.nz also closed down, so we started purchasing Qu-ax unicycles from the NZ importer. However, this importer also closed down in 2017 and we purchased their remaining stock.
By 2019, all our unicycle stock had run out, and this project was closed.
What is educational about Unicycling? Unicycling is a unique skill. It takes between 1 and 30 hours to learn to unicycle – depending on a person’s aptitude, fitness, attitude etc. It is of considerable value for youth to have learnt a skill that is unique, attractive, draws attention from crowds, and makes them stand out from their peers.
Overseas research has demonstrated that unicycling is an activity that enhances learning, and helps youth to gain more benefit from the learning environment they are in. In Japan, many schools have unicycling as a core part of their curriculum and use it as a form of ‘brain gym’ with their students.
What Schools have you Loaned Unicycles to? Our unicycles have been loaned to over 120 schools all over NZ. They have also been loaned to alternative education programs, and to programs for at-risk youths in New Zealand.
We have loaned unicycles to CLS (an Alternative Education School in Auckland that works with approximately 500 full-time students each year); TE ROOPU O WAI ORA INC (provides early intervention programmes specifically targeted at ‘at-risk’ youth within schools) and FAST FORWARD (a free school holiday programme for needy children based in Central Auckland).
Positive Outcomes of Unicycles in NZ Schools: A Physical Education teacher borrowed some unicycles from us to use as a demonstration with a paper he presented at the NZ PE Teachers Conference. He recalled how he had been working in an Otara High School when we loaned the school a set of unicycles. He told the story of the impact these unicycles had had on some of the students, particularly on the students with low self-esteem who weren’t respected by other students. When these students learned to ride a unicycle (and the ‘cool’ kids didn’t), their self-esteem (and the respect others gave them) rose greatly. What a wonderful step forward in life for these students!
“Thanks so much for the loan of the (uni)cycles. The three were enough to spark a unicycle basketball team. It really took off this year. After half a year of practise, I now have about 8 students practising regularly and we are almost ready to field a team and look for an opponent.” from Ben @ Wellington High School 2013.