Juggling Helps Students Succeed
Several teachers and administrators said that they've seen students' schoolwork improve after the kids learned to juggle. Improvements in concentration, eye-hand coordination, fine motor skills, reading, and behavior are just some of the benefits of juggling cited by educators. In fact, several teachers said that juggling increases students' ability to concentrate, enhances their eye-hand coordination, and builds self-confidence. "They don't just perform better, they have a desire to perform better," says Debbie Curtis of students who participate in her school's juggling club. Curtis, the principal of Nowlin Elementary School in Blue Springs, Missouri, added, "They seem to try harder in class and have fewer discipline problems."
At Nowlin, students learn to juggle in kindergarten during physical education classes; they practice during classroom juggling breaks. Greg Goodman, the school's physical education teacher says he started the juggling program seven years ago to appeal to children not interested in team sports. The students perform at an annual assembly at their school and at other schools as well. Classroom teachers have reported seeing improvement in students' academic work and focus after they start juggling. "You look at how they use both sides of the brain [while juggling]," he says. "Juggling gives students a lot of confidence, and it's something they can practice without a coach."
Juggling also is good for developing eye-hand coordination and learning to store memories. "Kids learn the easy stuff and then move on," Goodman says. "They can do literally hundreds of thousands of [juggling] patterns with just three objects." Students who juggle also get a physical workout. After wearing heart rate monitors to measure their exertion level while juggling, the students realized they had to be in good physical shape if they wanted to do complicated routines, according to Goodman.
Schools in Jacksonville, Florida, have experienced similar success with their juggling programs. "The whole school juggles," says Alice Daugherty, a first-grade special education teacher at Alimacani Elementary School in Jacksonville, which has pre-K through fifth graders. "We use it to improve eye-hand coordination, concentration, and confidence." She too has observed children's reading skills improve after lids learn to juggle. In fact, that was one reason for launching the program.
"We started a juggling program in 1994-1995 to help prepare the kids for reading," Jan Tipton, Alimacani's physical education teacher tells Education World. Some teachers observed, moreover, that children who had trouble learning to juggle also had trouble learning to read. "We find that if we give kids extra practice juggling, their reading improves as well. It's my way of helping in an academic area," Tipton notes. Juggling also provides other benefits. "It levels the playing field. Some kids don't excel in other areas of athletics, but they can juggle well," Tipton says. Juggling is a good way for kids to burn off steam, adds third-grade teacher Catrina Perkins. Perkins, who is learning to juggle from some of her students, uses juggling to help students practice listening and following directions as well as build teamwork skills as they work on group routines.
First-grade teacher Ellen Langley said that she has seen children apply the concentration they develop from learning to juggle to other activities, including academic activities. "They will pick up a book and read it right through," Langley says. "I believe that when you learn to focus and pay attention to steps," adds third-grade teacher Terry Brock, "that helps with everything."
For the children, of course, the benefits of juggling probably are not as important as the fun they're having. "The kids enjoy it so much," Goodman says. "They get positive attention for learning a new skill, and it's a good hook to get them involved in exercise."