Bowsher, Riverside Jugglers
kids on to juggling has enriched my life!"
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
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."
are some of the plusses you have seen from this club?
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!"
have been the biggest hurdles to overcome?
their interest. Without my time and the money spent, this would
not exist. I cannot imagine a better investment. "
are some of the ways in which the kids have taken leadership of
"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