Sacred Heart 7th grader Will Shea does clapping push ups on Thursday morning during gym class. (Holly Pelczynski/Bennington
Sacred Heart 7th grader Will Shea does clapping push ups on Thursday morning during gym class. (Holly Pelczynski/Bennington Banner/photos.benningtonbanner.com

BENNINGTON -- Middle schoolers at the Sacred Heart School showed off their moves Thursday morning, performing jump-rope routines for their teachers and peers.

The students have been in working on a jump-roping unit since February. "They were doing such a wonderful job, I asked them to perform for you," said phys. ed. teacher Jennie Hogan to the assembled younger students.

The jumprope unit is part of the SPARK program that the school recently adopted for its phys. ed. classes. SPARK was created in 1989 by the San Diego State University Research Foundation, and "strives to improve the health of children, adolescents, and adults by disseminating evidence-based physical education, after school, early childhood, and coordinated school health programs to teachers and recreation leaders serving Pre-K through 12th grade students," according to the program's website.

Hogan said the middle schoolers had first worked on their individual jump-roping skills, then had divided into groups to create routines to music. At Sacred Heart, phys. ed. classes meet twice a week.

"I've seen such a huge difference, in their individual and team skills, since we started," said Hogan.

The routines consisted of every imaginable jump rope move, ranging from the more traditional to almost unbelievable. One student performed clapping pushups while his classmates spun the jump rope underneath him. Others passed balls to each other while jumping over a rope held between two other students. Some were even nimble enough to have two students jump simultaneously on a single rope.

The younger students clapped and cheered loudly for every trick, and were raptly engaged in the whole performance, which lasted about 30 minutes. After all the groups had performed, the middle schoolers performed a simple group dance routine, by the end of which most of the younger students had joined as well. "I hadn't even seen that before," said a laughing Hogan about the dance routine. "They asked me this morning if they could do it, I said as long as its appropriate."

Principal David Estes was impressed with the work the students had put in, and how much their younger peers had enjoyed the show. "It's nice when the kids can entertain the other kids," he said, "and show them what they've learned."

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB