Mondays are madness … and, man, is it fun
The way Ruth Harrison sees it, the ball is in her court.
In fact, all the balls, roller racers, unicycles, board games, stilts, jump ropes, floor hockey equipment and other toys normally stowed away are in her court at the Aspen Elementary School on Monday afternoons.
And amidst all that equipment are 40-something frenzied second-through-fifth-graders enjoying what is called – and can only be described as – Monday Mania.
Harrison, a 29-year physical education teacher at the Aspen elementary and middle schools, created the popular after-school program in October “as my personal response to the Columbine shootings,” she said.
For many of the youngsters who participate regularly in Monday Mania, the program is a welcome departure from their structured gym classes.
“It’s fun, because you can play any game and do anything,” said Elizabeth, an Aspen third-grader. “It’s not like gym class.”
“It’s nutty and wild,” added Elizabeth’s playmate, Marissa, who is also in third grade.
The structure of Monday Mania is simple: “organized chaos,” says Harrison.
“Different ages, different activities, that’s the mission,” said the former Colorado Middle School Teacher of the Year (1988). Elementary school students don’t have enough opportunities to interact socially, Harrison feels, and Monday Mania provides that forum.
“I don’t want it to be too structured, because that’s not the purpose of it,” Harrison said. “I just want to provide a safe place for boys and girls of different ages to connect with one another and have safe, healthy fun.”
Last Monday, the mayhem began at 3 p.m. sharp, when hordes of youngsters dashed through the check-in desk – manned by Lisa Hershey, an Aspen Elementary School reading tutor who volunteers her time to help Harrison. Within seconds, the gym was a frenzy of impromptu games.
Soon, the gym was teeming with a variety of activities: a half-dozen youngsters rode (or attempting to ride) unicycles, 10 kids faced off in a game of floor hockey, another dozen cruised about on roller racers and “pedalos,” and other children squared off in games of chess and other board games and puzzles.
“Nobody’s winning yet,” reported Michael, a second-grader, of his chess match with classmate Zack.
“That’s because I’m doing the same moves as you,” Zack quickly pointed out.
“This is awesome,” said fifth-grader David, while taking a break from cruising. “I like the roller racers and the unicycles; it’s all great though because it’s open closets.” Typically, the gym’s closets harboring all the toys, games, balls and gadgets are off limits, but not during Monday Mania.
“You can choose your own toy and make up different ways to use it – that’s the best,” said second-grader Brianna.
And while there are only a few rules governing Monday Mania – Harrison tells the kids prior to turning them loose to “have fun and be safe” – there were no conflicts during last Monday’s program.
“It warms my heart to be able to do this for boys and girls of all ages – with absolutely no conflict,” Harrison said. “This makes my week.”
Monday Mania will continue throughout the school year, with a few exceptions, Harrison said.
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