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Why they're taking juggling seriously in a Queens classroom

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The ''first jug,'' ''home position,'' ''three-ball cascade,'' ''two-bag exchange.'' If these terms sound unfamiliar, it may be because you haven't juggled lately.

Juggling is taken with utmost (almost) seriousness in a bouncing Queens classroom in New York City, where the play-skill has become an effective learning incentive.

Sixth-grade students with academic and behavioral as well as coordination difficulties are making significant headway as they verse themselves in the fine points of juggling - and reading and writing.

In 1981-82, the program's first year, the class average gain was 3.0 years on citywide reading tests. For the 1982-83 school year, the class average gain was 4.3 years.

''Juggling is Catching'' says a poster on a door at Public School 91. Behind it is the classroom of William Stone. Several years ago the young educator lost some of his fingers in an accident. To buoy his spirits, his wife gave him a book, ''Juggling for the Complete Klutz'' (Palo Alto, Calif.: Klutz Press. 1977 ).

Mr. Stone absorbed the book and taught himself to juggle in a victorious six hours. Not long after that, he introduced juggling to his class of 10 ''street-wise kids from Corona and Jackson Heights,'' as he calls them. It was to have been what the teacher calls ''a sequence lesson to wake them up'' - a short diversion from the regular classroom remedial work.

To Stone's surprise, though, his students asked for more. They arranged to bring in money so that the teachers could purchase beginners juggling equipment and the instruction book.

At first, the rule was 'no juggling until the day's work was finished,' says Stone. ''It was amazing. All of a sudden, the day's work was done by 1 p.m. instead of 3 p.m.''

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