Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers


artwork by Michael Hlavac
My daughter is a bouncy thing. From the time Lee Lee figured out that her legs were good for something other than assisting her terrible babyhood tantrums, she has used them to propel herself skyward in any way, shape or form. We exhausted her in the Johnny Jump-Up as a baby (until it became hazardous to the door frame), beat up a secondhand exer-saucer and broke two (yes, two!) mini trampolines. A friend once likened her to Tigger on Red Bull. 

In past winters, we took up semi-permanent residence at Edinborough Park, where she spent hours in the inflatable bounce house. But now, at age 7 and in school all day, there's little opportunity for Lee Lee to jump away her jiggles.

As we searched to find a suitable extra-curricular activity that would meet her boundless need to be physical (swimming? gymnastics? professional hopscotch?) an angel appeared on the playground with a couple of jump ropes, a positive attitude and some inspiring rhymes. The answer was clear at that moment: double-dutch.
Coach Jonny and Lee Lee
Coach Jonathan Reese, a.k.a. “Coach Jonny,” works for KIDS Club at Cornelia Elementary and teaches double-dutch skills through Edina Community Education. Every day after school, Coach Jonny ushers the children outside for some fresh air and exercise. Within minutes, a dozen kids mob him, all clamoring for a turn. He’s a real-life Pied Piper and his instrument is a jump rope. Turn by turn, he encourages these little ones to step in and do their best, never rebuking them for failed attempts or delayed entrances. 

This winter our principal worked with Jonny to implement Double-Dutch Wednesdays – an alternative recess choice. Kids from every grade level line the halls each week after lunch for some jumping fun outside on the sidewalk. When the snow was so deep that no flat ground was available, he took his crew to the parking lot. Let me tell you, it was cold. And he was out there. Brrrr!

The program is so popular that Jonny will continue Double-Dutch Wednesdays for the rest of the school year. That means my daughter gets to jump once a week with some new friends to her heart’s content and I don’t have to add another activity to our already-crammed family calendar. That truly means a lot to this Mom/Social Coordinator Extraordinaire! 
Having an alternative recess option has made a huge difference as students of all grade levels traverse the social tides of playground time. It gives them an opportunity to participate in a structured activity, bringing students together with like-interests to promote social interaction in a safe and guided environment. My hope is that we find a way to bring this kind of fun fitness activity to the other schools in our district, as I’m sure there are many more Tiggers in our midst. 

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