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Patty Bowsher, Riverside Jugglers 

"Turning kids on to juggling has enriched my life!"

Patty Bowsher, Riverside, Washington 

      Patty Bowsher, a Spanish teacher at Riverside High School north of  Spokane, Washington, is the organizer of a thriving juggling club at Riverside High School.  

      For years Patty has noticed that there are a lot of kids in high school who are on the periphery. They keep to themselves and almost never talk. They do not take part in traditional sports and often do not do well in my classes. She wanted to give them something to be good at, to let them shine. "Kids, even in high school, are just dying to have the opportunity to play, get together with others to juggle, have a skill they can build upon, and show off!"  Their creativity and enthusiasm blossomed.   

      Patty bribed the kids from the start. She offered a candy bar to any one who could do ten catches. She crocheted juggling balls in bright colors and stitched happy faces on them to have something happy in her class they could grab to practice, called them "Happy Sacks" and filled them with plastic beads.   Kids raced to class to practice before class started. Some kids just liked to squeeze them during class. Before long, she had dozens of kids juggling ten tosses.  

      Patty made more "Happy Sacks" with different, and more elaborate faces. She made six juggling balls in the school colors, with silver braid and RHS emblazoned on each so they could pass in pairs. With a stockpile of three-for-a- dollar candy bars she rewarded them for 50 catches, 100 catches, and for certain tricks: under- the-leg, behind-the-back, reverse cascade, tennis, showers, etc. She was learning these tricks herself so she could teach them.

     

      The enthusiasm continued to grow.  She added juggling videos during lunch and opened the gym for Friday mornings to practice, She ordered juggling equipment and bought six small basketballs, six florescent softballs, weird squash balls and bright colored balls at the Dollar Store. Then the kids went crazy! There were days I’d have 25-30 kids in my room at lunch juggling all kinds of objects. They started taking pictures on their cell phones of themselves and their friends juggling in trees, on the roof, on a bicycle.  

      She let them borrow videos to take home and equipment to practice and promised to crochet three Happy Sacks if they could master more tricks than she could do. Each day kids asked what they could practice to show her the next day, so she made a check list of skills to give them ideas of what is out there to learn.  

      Soon they designed a "Riverside Jugglers" t-shirt, and the school agreed to have juggling recognized as an official club of the ASB. The Riverside Jugglers  will have a half page in the yearbook and they now have a link on the school website.  

      The next coup was a performance at the spring sports assembly, which is usually limited to "traditional" sports. "It was electric!" says Patty.  And after that, she proposed a joggling race in school track meet and invited the Spokane newspaper to do a story.  Seven kids raced; other kids came just because they wanted to be interviewed and have their picture in the paper.  

      Before the Joggling Race at the track meet, when the newspaper was interviewing the kids and taking their pictures, three boys from the competing school, Pullman High School, ran up and said, "Cool. You have a juggling club at this school? We don’t have any cool clubs like that. I wish I went here!"  

      Patty concludes: "These kids have given me such joy: watching them progress, seeing kids change from quiet and reserved to show-offs! Juggling makes people smile-- watching it, doing it. I laugh so hard sometimes at what they come up with. It is such a happy hobby!-well-worth passing on...with passion. 

      What are the next steps in "keeping it going?" 

      "Next year I want to get a crack team together to perform at sporting events like the cheerleaders. Passing rings, etc., something showy for the crowd to build school spirit. I thought we might perform at nursing homes or the hospital, something so they could get community service credit, which is required for graduation at my high school." 

What are some of the plusses you have seen from this club? 

"As an example: 2 kids wanted to show me what they could do. One stood at the lower level of a flight of stairs, the other at the top, behind a railing overlooking the stairs. They passed small basketballs back and forth over the railing, down to the landing, with a 10 foot drop, and height difference. Amazing!" 

What have been the biggest hurdles to overcome? 

"Keeping their interest. Without my time and the money spent, this would not exist. I cannot imagine a better investment. " 

What are some of the ways in which the kids have taken leadership of the club? 

"They teach each other and feed off each other. When one masters the shower, it’s like a chain reaction. Others want to do it, too. They make up things to try and give me ideas of what we could do. They are really big on getting out of school to go perform and teach how to juggle. It is a magical experience to see high-school kids go nuts about juggling. They are usually so reserved and worried about what people will think: is this O.K.?, will this be seen as nerdy or un-cool? At first some kids said when they saw me juggling before class, "Oh, this is the class of clowns." Now those same kids are really into it. It is now seen as something to aspire to.  I have new kids everyday stopping by to see if they can get a candy bar. We could actually have had a 2-school competition. That would have been cool. Maybe next year..." 
 
 

 

 

 
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