Twice a week, 45 W.B. Simpson Elementary students strap on their helmets and jump on their unicycles. Yes, that’s right, unicycles. Some of them whiz around the gym performing tricks while others hold onto the walls trying to keep their balance, all a part of the school’s Unicycle Club. But whatever their skill level, they are there to have fun and learn.
Twice a week, 45 W.B. Simpson Elementary students strap on their helmets and jump on their unicycles.
Yes, that’s right, unicycles.
Some of them whiz around the gym performing tricks while others hold onto the walls trying to keep their balance, all a part of the school’s Unicycle Club. But whatever their skill level, they are there to have fun and learn.
The school physical education teacher, Jim Fennemore, started the club eight years ago after getting a $2,000 grant for 35 unicycles and helmets.
“I told my wife I’ve always wanted to learn how to unicycle,” he said.
That 1998 Christmas she gave him a unicycle, and Fennemore said it took him seven days over the holiday break to learn. He realized if he could learn then it’s certainly something his students could try.
The club meets from January to March and then puts on a show for the school. He said this year when he put up the signup sheet he had 50 names in the blink of an eye even though he could only take students on a first-come basis.
Fifth-grader Sarah Gordon joined the club last year after her friend Reily, who already was part of the club, promised to help her. Once she figured how to ride, it became pretty easy.
Now, she has her own unicycle and her favorite trick is to spin in a circle while holding hands with another rider. She said on the weekends her dad takes her to Brecknock Park to ride around.
“People are like ‘Oh my God,’’’ Sarah said of those who see her in the park. “I feel funny when I’m there because everyone’s making a big deal of it, but it’s not.”
Fennemore said last year they had 42 riders and after three months of meeting, 40 of them could ride proficiently, adding that he gets a lot of satisfaction from watching the kids learn.
“If nothing else it teaches them how to set a goal and achieve that,” he said of the club.
Even after only a few weeks, the students are showing progress. Fennemore told students at the Jan. 22 practice they need only to believe in themselves, pointing to one of the new riders who rode all the way across the floor barely holding on to his hand.
“Some of you guys are almost there,” Fennemore said.
Fourth-grader Autumn Simons, who is just learning how to ride, said the hardest part is keeping her balance. The first thing she’s worked on is how to stay upright.
“You shouldn’t look down because that’s when you fall,” she said.
Autumn heard about the club last year when she was in third grade and said so far it’s been a lot of fun.
Another beginner rider, Skye Hanna, a fourth-grader, said she’s trying not to lean forward too much in order to keep her balance.
She was curious how to ride a unicycle, which is one of the reasons she joined the club. It also would give her something to do in the afternoon as well as give her a chance to spend more time with her friends, she said.
Skye said she might even get her own unicycle next year if she sticks with the club.
Fifth-grader Ryan Bones joined last year and it took him approximately four weeks to get the hang of riding. His advice for beginner riders is to practice by riding along the wall so they can touch it.
Ryan, along with many of the other second-year riders, does tricks like leaning forward so his stomach rests on the seat or riding the tall unicycle, which is called the Giraffe.
When asked what his favorite part of the club was, he said, “just riding.”
Email Jayne Gest at firstname.lastname@example.org