Kennedy gymnastics program offers new summer activity for students

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Nick Crow
Friday, June 27, 2014

JANESVILLE — Keeping kids active can be a challenge during summer months.

Marianne McGuire believes she may have found a new way to keep kids who are enrolled in summer school at Kennedy Elementary not only active but occupied.

She formed the first tumbling and gymnastics class offered at the school.

"I wanted to do something different," McGuire said. "So I created a course proposal for a tumbling and gymnastics class."

McGuire is a special education teacher at Marshall Middle School and has been an instructor at Walworth County Gymnastics Center in Elkhorn since 2003.

"This is a different side of me not too many get to see," McGuire said. "What my goal is with the class is to introduce them to gymnastics. It gives them an opportunity to do something physically active and try something new. A lot of kids sit around during the summer, and this gets them up and moving."

On a recent day, students stretched, balanced and flipped on mats lining the gym at Kennedy.

The course began for second- through fifth-graders June 16. McGuire teaches two sessions of the class. Each averages 15 to 20 students, she said.

"I think the students are enjoying the class," McGuire said. "They seem happy, excited and eager to learn."

Kennedy summer school Principal Brent Corey said he has noticed the kids having a great time whenever he has walked by the class.

"The biggest thing for Kennedy is that the kids get to choose what they want to take," Corey said. "Kennedy is unique in that way compared to some of the other schools. Most of our classes—gymnastics included—are at capacity."

Maddie Viles, 10, is a fifth-grader at Roosevelt Elementary. She has been doing gymnastics for almost three years and acts as an assistant in McGuire's class.

"I just like that it's fun and still a workout," Maddie said.

She thinks her classmates will benefit most from being active and doing something they may not have done before.

"I think the other kids like learning new skills," Maddie said.

McGuire said she is hopeful the students will continue in gymnastics in future years but hopes the skills they learn will build a foundation for other sports.

"It's a way to expose kids to the world of gymnastics in a fun, safe environment that's not stressful," McGuire said. "At the very least, it teaches them body coordination, strength training, discipline, balance, dedication and commitment. It teaches them how to handle fear and push through things when faced with a challenge."

Students in the class are constantly required to follow directions and stay safe, McGuire said.

"One thing I can definitely say is the kids are very engaged," McGuire said. "I try to maintain a very structured class to make sure it's safe. I feel like I've been able to manage the class with structure, but the kids are still able to have fun and learn new skills."

The gymnastics and tumbling class joins physical education classes such as a triathlon course already available at Kennedy.

"I'm seeing in this class that kids are walking in with not a lot of experience and showing joy when they do a cartwheel for the first time or can hold a hand stand," McGuire said. "It's been fun. I think the kids have enjoyed it."

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