When it comes to hula hooping, 11-year-old Caden Derick says he’s just okay. “I practice sometimes,” he says. “But usually my dog eats up my hula hoops.” Caden’s dog would’ve been in hoop heaven at Harborview Elementary School in Juneau, Alaska. Students there got to make their own hula hoops out of PVC pipe and other materials, all in preparation for the big event – the Harborview Hoopoff for World Hoop Day. Cadentold KTOO, “I don’t know why they have a Hoop Day. But it’s cool that they do.”
How did Harborview Elementary become a WHD hot spot for 2013? Gym Teacher Zach Stenson said that one of his friends had taken part in past World Hoop Days. “She gave me the idea a couple years ago, and said ‘Oh, what a neat thing if you could have all the kids do something at the same time that kids all over the world are doing…’” So when Harborview teachers started a Humanities program this year, Stenson says they decided to make the hula hoop project their kickoff activity. “Bringing our school a little bit more together,” Stenson says. “Helping the kids make friends, that sort of thing.”
One lesson Stenson hopes the kids took home from it all is that they don’t always have to buy their toys. With the right materials, they can make them at home. Teachers and parents used hair dryers to heat up roughly 10-foot sections of plastic pipe that the kids would bend into a circular shape. Ten-year-old Kiana Potter made the project’s first hula hoop. “When Mr. Stenson first started talking about it, he asked me to make an example hoop,” she explained. “So, I could show the other kids what it was going to be.” Kiana’s not sure why she was chosen to make the example hoop, but says maybe it’s because she has a lot of hula hooping experience.
Local businesses donated money or materials, and many parents volunteered to help with the project. Harborview PTA President Bruce Franklin says the kids at first have no idea how plastic pipe will turn into a hula hoop, but that changes once they see it start taking shape. “Then they can’t keep their hands off it, and everybody wants to hula hoop,” Franklin said, “So, it’s kind of a rapid particle accelerator machine of excitement, because they just get super psyched up. And then, you know, we have to kind of keep them from hula hooping each other to death out here.”
All of this culminated in what turned out to be the Harboview Elementary Hoop Off. At 1:30 p.m. 350 students poured into Marie Drake Gymnasium, each one carrying a hula hoop they made themselves, and prepared to engage in a hoop-off of epic proportions. When everyone was assembled by grade level, Stenson moved to the front of the pack. At his call of “One, two, three!” all 350 students rose and raised their hoops in unison. That feeling of togetherness was exactly what Stenson wanted to create when he first had the idea at the beginning of the school year.
Stenson has been teaching hoop techniques in class, too, and will continue to do so for two more weeks. At the end of two weeks, the kids will take their masterpieces home. Cori Stennett, who organizes hoop jams in Juneau, was at the hoop off too. She told the Juneau Empire that the hoops are “so fun, it’s such good exercise, and I love looking around at the energy of these kids.” One day Stennett called her and said, “Cori, how would you go about making 400 hula hoops?” and he got to find out. She said she provided guidance, but it was truly a community effort to see the Harborview hoop project through. The end result was wonderful, she said. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it? I love it.”