Jefferson City school club teaches elementary students to juggle

Sunday, February 24, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Scarves, clubs, balls and cubes fly through the air, the students under them praying they don't hit the floor.

Some students team up to create their own routines. These students are all members of Belair Elementary School's Juggling Club.

Terry Hale, physical education teacher, said there has been a juggling club at Belair for the last eight to nine years.

The club is one that students get excited about, he said, and must try out for.

After taking part in open juggling and proving they can successfully juggle a three-ball cascade, third- through fifth-graders are allowed to join.

"There are some younger students who have the hand-eye coordination needed," Hale said. "They do get to join the club. It is just not a skill that every younger student has."

Hand-eye coordination is exactly why club members Darby Brundage and Kyle Irwin joined.

"I joined because I wanted to work on my hand-eye coordination and it seemed like a really fun thing to do," Brundage, a fifth-grader said.

Irwin, a fourth-grader, joined for much the same reason. "A lot of my friends are in the club and I thought it would be a great way to work on my hand-eye coordination," he said. "Juggling really has helped me with my coordination."

But, the students say, nothing comes easily if you do not practice.

"On Tuesdays before school, the club meets and practices for 40 minutes," Hale said. "But it is like any skill -- the more you work at it, the better you get."

Irwin and Brundage both agreed and repeated their teacher's advice for extra practicing.

"I practice every morning before I get on the bus," Irwin said. He even practices after school some days. He hopes to be able to juggle clubs by the end of the school year.

Though Brundage admits she does not practice often, she is working on meeting some of her own juggling goals.

"I have been practicing more because I am trying to be able to juggle three balls in one hand and four balls in two hands," she said. She hopes to be able to juggle clubs soon and would one day like to be able to juggle fire.

The club, which has about 16 students this year, showcases their hard work at basketball games and festivals. Hale said he tries to arrange at least a couple performances for the children each year.

"That way they get to show what they have learned," he said.

Brundage said she really likes the performances because then everyone can see how skilled she is.

"I like getting to show people how good I can juggle," she said.

Brundage and a friend, Ashleigh Haslag, do some parts of the performances together sometimes, with each only using one arm to juggle.

The pair comes up with their routines by themselves. "We will think of something that is cool and we add stuff that we think we can keep going," she said.

Hale said juggling is a skill that students can take with them for a lifetime.

"We have some students who have continued with their juggling after they left here," he said. "We have a former student who can juggle fire and knives."

Irwin said this is a skill he hopes to keep fine-tuning as he gets older.

Being the only one in his family who can juggle is fun, he said. Especially since he is teaching his dad how.

"I am teaching him to juggle three balls," Irwin said. "I really like juggling and I hope I keep learning more and more."

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