Students are putting Proof School's high ceilings to good use.


In block 5, I've had the pleasure of helping Proof School run its first juggling club.
I first proposed the idea for the club to Kathy in March. I was an avid juggler in high school, where students in my school's club would juggle at our weekly meetings, practice performance pieces, and even road trip to juggling conventions. As a Proof parent, I had been looking for a way to get more involved at Proof and thought that running a juggling club for a block would be a good fit for my schedule. Moreover, I thought that juggling would be a good fit for Proof. The patterns and constraints of juggling have long attracted mathematically-minded people, and juggling combines these with athleticism, performing arts, and even maker skills as many jugglers design and build their own props. I was excited to see where Proof students would go with it.

Kathy responded enthusiastically to the idea, and over email we began to brainstorm ways of getting the necessary props. Ever resourceful, she started experimenting with filling balloons with precise measures of rice to make affordable juggling bags. I also had my own collection of props including bean bags, clubs, devil sticks, and diabolos. (I decided to leave my knives, torches, and bullwhip at home!) Finally, we needed students. Like any club, we put the idea to the students to vote on with their block 5 club preferences. There was indeed interest and so the club was formed. Master Z signed on as faculty sponsor, revealing a latent talent with the devil stick!
My initial plan for the club was to start with an introduction to three ball juggling and then introduce one new prop or skill every week after that. We started the first week with a discussion of three ball juggling, including the classic definition of juggling as "having more objects in motion than you have hands." I pointed out that this definition extends to patterns with multiple jugglers passing objects between them. Being Proof School, one of the students then asked about patterns with zero objects and negative hands.
However once the students got their hands on the props, it was clear that my plan wouldn't fly—they wanted to try everything immediately. So instead I spent time during the early weeks circling around to give one-on-one introductory lessons or provide small tips and demonstrations. With that start, the students have been largely self-motivated, and have even begun to teach each other. I've seen each student experiment with all of the core props (balls, devil stick, diabolo) but they also each have a favorite and spend most of their time each week trying to develop their skills with that one. Naturally, students also get PE points for the club.
It's been loads of fun to be involved with this club, and I hope we can do it again next year.

--Nick Matsakis