Woodland Middle School students develop life skills by learning to juggle

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Students at Woodland Middle School joined an eight-week club to learn how to juggle, but ended up learning much more including the value of perseverance, patience, and developing hand-eye coordination by throwing balls, bean bags, and grocery bags into the air.

Tyler Thralls tosses a ball to a club member to teach how to juggle as a team.
Tyler Thralls tosses a ball to a club member to teach how to juggle as a team. 

Tyler Thralls, a sixth grade teacher at Woodland Middle School, decided to offer a juggling club during lunchtime after Principal Jake Hall told the teaching staff that he'd like to have more club offerings at the school. "Juggling is an activity many people don't think they can learn," explained Thralls. "I wanted to start a club that shows kids they can learn any skill if they put in the time and effort."

Thralls first learned to juggle as a fourth grader when his teacher told him to learn something new and present it to his class. "I had watched older friends juggling and it seemed like the coolest thing in the world to me," he said. "Juggling is something that can brightens everyone's day and anyone can learn it – a lesson that's been reinforced for me by running the club."

Tyler Thralls learned how to juggle when his fourth grade teacher told him to learn a new skill and present it to his class.
Tyler Thralls learned how to juggle when his fourth grade teacher told him to learn a new skill and present it to his class. 

During the club meetings, Thralls uses juggling as a metaphor to teach the students in his club lessons about school and life, in general, by demonstrating the importance of having a growth mindset and realizing it's never too late to learn new skills. "When you come up against an obstacle in any part of your life, keep the idea of a 'growth mindset' in mind," Thralls teaches his students. "Remember your past accomplishments and realize that if you can be successful in one area of your life, you can use those same skills to become successful in other areas, too."

Drew Burns, sixth grader, enjoys showing his friends and family the juggling skills he learned from his lunchtime club. Drew Burns, sixth grader, enjoys showing his friends and family the juggling skills he learned from his lunchtime club. 

Students learn the basics by juggling plastic grocery bags which float slowly and teach hand-eye coordination. Once students learn the rhythm and different hand movements, they move on to juggling more than two items at a time, moving on to three or more.

Once students get the basics down, Thralls introduces concepts of teamwork into juggling as students learn how to pass items from one person to another while still juggling. "When you work with others, you can accomplish so much more then you can by yourself," explained Thralls. "One of the biggest lessons of teamwork is knowing how important it is to be patient – learn from your teammates and adapt to their styles."

BrookLynn Decker, sixth grader, uses the hand-eye coordination she learned from juggling while she plays soccer, her favorite sport.
BrookLynn Decker, sixth grader, uses the hand-eye coordination she learned from juggling while she plays soccer, her favorite sport. 

Many students in the club had never tried learn juggling before joining the club. "I never juggled before and thought it might be fun to learn," said Drew Burns, a sixth grader in the club. "Once I understood the rhythm, I got better, and it's been a ton of fun showing my family and friends." BrookLynn Donald, a sixth grade classmate, agreed with Burns. "It's been even more fun than I thought it would be," she said. "In addition, the hand-eye coordination I’m developing here helps me when I play soccer, my favorite sport."

The biggest lesson Thralls teaches in juggling is how to find the fun in everything you do. "When you feel down or someone else in your life feels down, looking on the bright side and having fun with something simple like juggling can brighten everyone's day," he said. "Just like any activity, you can take juggling too seriously, but it's important to realize you can have fun with whatever you do whether it's juggling, schoolwork, or other activities in life."

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