Originally published Dec. 16, 2019 in the Papillion Times.

By Ashley Quintela

Middle schoolers are often juggling classes and extracurriculars, but now, they are juggling tennis balls, rings and the sort.

This year, Papillion Middle School added a juggling club to its list of activities.

John Johnson, a seventh grade English teacher at PMS and the club’s sponsor, said he wanted to start a club after watching two students in action last year.

Johnson caught a glimpse of now eighth-graders Jordan Rowe and Dade Larsen, who are co-presidents for the club, juggling items from a staff member’s desk.

Johnson, who learned how to juggle in 2015 while he was a paraprofessional for a physical education class, said he was excited to see others relish an activity he’s dabbled in for years.

Eventually, the three teamed up to introduce the activity to the entire school.

“We just wanted something fun and to have a positive way to get the day going,” Johnson said.

The club, which meets every Thursday from 7:15 to 7:50 a.m., has about 10 members and Johnson is happy with the consistent turnout.

“I was shocked, actually,” he said. “I know juggling is fun and learning a new skill is always great, especially when it’s not something super academic at school, but I didn’t think we’d have new kids roll in and want to start.”

Seventh and eight graders are welcome to join the club and no prior experience is required.

“It’s fun getting new kids in here who never would have tried something like this,” Johnson said.

To get newcomers started, Johnson shows them how to juggle with scarves because they are easy to catch. After that they graduate to tennis balls, followed by rings and eventually clubs.

In addition to juggling, Johnson said he hopes club members learn the importance of never giving up.

“You really have to fail a lot at if you want to actually be able to do it,” he said. “I think there’s a lot to learn about adversity and perseverance.’’

He also said juggling is a more productive activity than staring at a phone screen.

“It’s got a lot of good benefits,” Johnson said. “I hope they are able to have some fun.”

One benefit, Johnson said, is getting students’ minds warmed up before the bell rings.

“When I’m juggling, I’m able to turn that side of my brain off that’s just always working. It helps to just kind of relax you and use those motor skills in a different way,” he said.

Larsen said juggling helps him prepare for the school day.

“I start the day concentrated because I already warmed up my mind,” he said.

Aside from focusing his mind, Larsen said his favorite part of being in the club is learning a new juggling trick.

“You get a sense of pride,” he said.

In the future, Johnson said the club wants to perform at school assemblies to show off what they’ve learned.

Until then, the club will continue to grow in their skill as a group and hopefully in numbers.

“I think it’s really brought us all together,” Johnson said. “That’s the best part, having a positive group you can count on.”

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