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Juggling for success

Students in a juggling class have fun, learn hand-eye coordination and get a boost to their self-esteem that helps them with other aspects of their lives.

By MICHELLE MILLER

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 29, 2001


NEW PORT RICHEY -- Kristen Jadick was tossing three neon-colored scarves in the air as she and her fifth-grade classmates learned to juggle.

"This is fun," said 11-year-old Kristen, taking a break from doing a juggling maneuver called a reverse cascade. "Usually when you go to school it's work. This is neat."

Juggling was on the agenda Aug. 22 for all students at Deer Park Elementary School during their physical education classes. Also involved were teachers, who were treated to a morning juggling workshop, and parents, who were invited to attend a special family juggling night with their children.

Best of all, students who learned the skills during the day had the opportunity to teach their parents and cheer them on during the evening presentation.

This was the second time Dave Finnigan and his children, Dorothy, 17, and Ben, 13, have come out to Deer Park to teach the "Juggling for Success" workshop. The Finnigans, who live in Celebration, have been trekking to schools across the country for the past nine years.

While the workshop is fun, a lot of learning is also going on, said physical education teacher Sandra Cooper.

Dave Finnigan is a taskmaster when it comes to following directions. He instructed the children to "sit down, put your scarves behind you, and your hands on your knees," when it came time to teach them the next move.

Juggling also helps hone reading and writing skills because of the hand-eye coordination needed to follow scarves or balls as they are being juggled, Cooper said.

"It helps with motor skills, sequencing skills and especially self-esteem," she said. "Sometimes the kids that are the least athletic are the best jugglers."

Some students, like 10-year-old Zachary Garner, got to strut their stuff on stage after being selected for catching on quick. "That was cool," said Zachary after enjoying his spot in the limelight.

"It's a real positive experience being on stage -- it's an instant confidence boost," said accomplished juggler Dorothy Finnigan, who described herself as being "painfully shy" before performing and teaching with her dad nine years ago. "Some of these kids may have a little trouble reading or spelling, but hey, they can juggle."

While juggling is a fun ego booster, and perhaps academic, it's also hard work, said 10-year-old B.J. Wright, who proved it by breaking into a sweat.

"It was fun," said B.J., "but it was definitely challenging."

- For information on "Juggling for Success," call Dave Finnigan at (407) 566-0381 or e-mail: davefinnigan@yahoo.com.

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