NEWFOUNDLAND - By twisting their wrists and following the appropriate techniques, kindergarten through fifth grade students at Wallenpaupack South Elementary School raised $1,138 by jumping rope in gym class for the American Heart Association's “Jump Rope for Heart.”
    For years, Physical Education Teacher Ann Valonis has had her students participate in the event as part of a jump rope unit in her classes, where students jump at different stations around the gymnasium by partnering with a classmate and jumping rope or a station where they cross their arms and a tricky jump that is similar to a jumping jack.
    Usually, second grade students and older participate in the fundraiser. But, kindergarten students  also learn how to jump rope. Before moving onto the jump rope, younger students practice with a hula hoop where they have to do a two-foot jump. Then, come February and March the students move onto the jump rope unit. Valonis said its a “gradual progression,” with some students that can jump really well and others not so much.
    Jumping rope, Valonis said isn't as easy as it may appear because there are important techniques to remember, like making a big letter U with the rope and then turning your wrists. The younger children, she explained have difficulties because they are using their shoulders, which isn't right. By the first grade, she said the students start to improve and by the second grade the students are able to do the “fancy footwork.” The students' gradual progression, Valonis said is nice because she gets to see the students' skills evolve and once they move on to Maria Miller's class in the fourth grade, they are pretty good.
    Although the students raise money, Valonis said that is a small part to the jump rope unit because its about the physical activity. Of the donations though, she said there are “very kind hearted people” as the funds will benefit Wayne and Pike Counties. Last year the students raised $250. No matter the amount raised, Valonis said there are, “very generous people.”
    About 280 students from kindergarten through fifth grade participate in the jump rope unit, with about 240 or so that participated in the fundraising.
    When jumping rope, Valonis reminds the students that they have to, “get your brain to tell your body what to do,” in order to complete the critical elements. Its simple though, she said as a person must have their arms out, make a big letter U with the rope turn the wrists and then when the rope hits the floor the jumper must do a bunny hop on two feet. The little clues, she added help the students remember the techniques.   
    The fancier jumping tricks include twisting one's hips and side hops where the person jumps over a rope on the ground almost like a skier. Or, the straddle jump is like a jumping jack where the person must jump forward and then backwards followed by crossing their ankles.
    Valonis said she doesn't focus on competition with the students, although they may try against one another to see who can jump longer. With enough competition in the world, Valonis said, “we're all winners in here,” because the class and lessons are about being physically active.
    As part of the jump rope unit, the students also participated in the Scranton Wilkes Barre Rail Riders program “fit track,” where each child received a jump rope and they had to pledge to  complete 60 minutes worth of physical activity a day and eat healthy. Meeting with the students three times a week, twice for physical education and once for health class, Valonis said the students love learning about their body and the relationship between physical activity and having a healthy heart from a nutrition angle.
    The fit track program ran for six weeks, and Valonis said it was a success. After the program was completed, each student received a ticket voucher to a ball game. With the funds raised for the American Heart Association, Valonis said the students are so sweet because a few donate their allowance. A national program, students at the North Primary School also participate. The main goal, she added is about physical activity.
    To jump rope well, Valonis said people need coordination and by the third and fourth grade the students are pros. Valonis said jumping rope is probably one of the best physical activities because it increases a person's heart rate and requires good coordination. The students, she said, work hard and one pair was able to jump 22 times together.     
    A  second grade student, Elijah Peifer said jumping rope can be kind of hard and if jumping in pairs they must work together. If jumping with a friend though, he said it isn't that hard. Jumping rope, Valonis told Peifer is about cooperating, which Peifer translated means working together.