How difficult is it, sometimes, to teach our children that hard work pays off? That practice makes perfect? Or that when you succeed at something, you have the right to be proud of your accomplishments? Kids are kids, so this lesson can be challenging to convey. Some would rather play than practice. Others are too easily discouraged. And some just don’t have the motivation.
Meet a group of kids who learned a new skill back in August, and due to the sheer force of determination and will to reach their goal, perfected it by October. These are the Jedi Jugglers from ISB, a total of 51 fourth and fifth graders who learned that setting a goal and reaching it is possible, and the payoff is sweet. They earned the privilege to perform in front of their school, parents, teachers and friends, demonstrating a unique skill they will have for a lifetime.
Jedi Jugglers was a concept that actually began in back in the 1980s in the U.S. (Kemper Elementary School in Colorado, to be exact). At ISB it’s been around for 10 years now. Physical Education teacher Tim Callahan leads the team effort (including colleagues Brooke Stephens and Dave Schuster, who, says Callahan, are every bit as responsible for the success of the program), encouraging students to learn and improve upon their juggling skills to make the Jedi Jugglers team. Each year there are anywhere from 50-80 students who meet all the marks to be on the team; this year there are 51 jugglers.
Around the second week of school, the P.E. teachers juggle with the kids before school and at recess every day. The kids have four weeks to “earn their rings” – first by demonstrating that they can master juggling 3 beanbags or balls at least 20 consecutive times. Once they do this, they become “Jedis in Training,” allowing them to take home a set of home-made rings with which to practice. When they can juggle rings 50 consecutive times, they receive a set of clubs made out of tennis balls and PVC pipe. Nine weeks in total were all the students had to in order to be able to juggle clubs 50 times – an extremely difficult task. Callahan says, “Once they can master the clubs, they can juggle almost any objects which have handles.” They are now called Jedi Knights and are invited to be in the school show.
The Jedi Jugglers performed two shows on October 21 – daytime for the school, and nighttime for family and friends. They may also have opportunities to perform at other school functions this year. Kids selected acts in which to specialize, such as “twin” juggling (two people using only one hand each) or juggling on the move (while on skateboards and inline skates); as well, they participated in “best-of” contests, tricks involving parent/teacher volunteers, and even juggling raw eggs! Ultra-challenging tricks by “Jedi Council Members” were a treat to watch, too. These elite students can juggle clubs 100 times, juggle four objects, pass six objects with a partner, and are able to double spin the clubs. In order to receive this special status, they also must complete 10 good deeds, such as help other jugglers achieve their goals.
“Those kids who demonstrate perseverance learn though both hard work and a ‘never give up attitude” that the impossible is REALLY possible,” says Callahan. “It is also a great and unique lifetime skill to develop that a person never outgrows. They take a lot of pride in becoming Jedis.”
What a great life-lesson to learn.