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Rocky Hill Clown Day – a big success!

A friend from the Knoxville Juggling Club joined me to teach the Rocky Hill Elementary first grade how to juggle. All of the children did well. There were about 3 that I wish I could work with weekly; they would turn into amazing jugglers!

My friend has the pleasure of practicing 45 minutes a day. His work is astounding! We were able to pass clubs around the children and do several duo tricks.

Clown Day is a special treat for Rocky Hill Elementary because for the past 26 years or so Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus has sent clowns to the school when they come to town. All the first grade dress as clowns and 12 stations are set up in the gym for circus type activities including a station to learn juggling. Now, most first graders are on the cusp of having the dexterity for juggling. We have roughly 12-15 minutes to teach 8-12 children at a time how to juggle. Rocky Hill has always impressed me with their integration of special needs children. These first graders could include children with Downs Syndrome, Autism, wheel chairs, and other challenges. We work to make sure that all children of all capabilities have fun at the juggling station (although, I never saw the wheel chair student yesterday so I think the teachers made the wrong assumption that he couldn’t participate).

Teaching first graders to juggle is a matter of patience and correct word choice. It is easier to teach them early in the day. Toward the end of the day attention spans have slipped and muscles grown weary. The second of teaching is mostly letting the children throw the balls then taking time to perform some juggling tricks. We start by showing the students a 3 pattern to demonstrate what they are trying to do. Showing them a circular pattern only confused them. Next we show that they will "teach their right hand to throw" and that they will throw straight up from their waist to the top of their head "keeping the palm of their hand toward the ceiling." They will move the ball to their left hand in an arch "like a rainbow" [if you show them one hand handing off the ball to the other hand and say "don’t do this" they will definitely do it]. Next "teach your left hand to throw straight up." Then throw back and forth with both balls "following the rainbow."

We explain to the children that we will give them a 2nd ball when they are ready. As they practice with one ball, we circulate amongst them for individualized instruction and as we find the ones ready we give a 2nd ball to them. Place a ball in the child’s left hand and a second in the right. Ask "which hand do you color with?" Starting with the non-dominate hand, pick up a ball to show it travelling in an arch toward the dominate hand. As it crosses their forehead pick up the other ball and in the same arch move it to toward the non-dominate hand. Ask the child to practice this always starting with "this hand" and point to the non-dominate hand.

If the child get the two balls down smoothly, they can move to three. Really juggling 3 balls is the same as the two ball pattern you have just taught them. Encourage practice!

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