Juneau’s Harborview Elementary School is crazy for World Hoop Day

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 Juneau’s Harborview Elementary School this past month. Students there got to make their own hula hoops out of PVC pipe and other material, all leading up to Saturday’s World Hoop Day.

Caden says he’s not sure what the hype’s all about, but it’s exciting nonetheless.

“Yeah, I think it’s cool that people do it,” he says. “I mean, I don’t know why they have a Hoop Day. But it’s cool that they do it.”

A few dedicated New York City hoopers started World Hoop Day in 2005 as a way of celebrating hoop culture. The exact date has changed every year since, but the idea is pretty simple: Get a bunch of people around the world hula hooping on the same day.

Harborview Gym Teacher Zach Stenson says one of his friends has 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 a similar activity,'” he says.

Harborview teachers started a Humanities program this year, and Stenson says they decided to make the hula hoop project their kickoff activity. They hope to hold similar events every month or so, focused on building community.

“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 take from the hula hoop project is that they don’t always have to buy their toys. With the right materials, they can make them at home.

While teachers and parents use hair dryers to heat up roughly 10-foot sections of plastic pipe, the kids bend them 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 says. “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.

“I can do a lot of tricks with a hula hoop,” she says. “I can do it around my neck and my hands and my arms, and I recently figured out how to do it around one foot while hopping up and down.”

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 says. “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.”

Friday afternoon, the entire school except kindergarten files into the gym at the Marie Drake building for the project’s culmination, a school-wide hoop off.

Each class holds a competition to see who will represent them. Then Mr. Stenson explains how the hoop off will work.

“We have ten minutes for our hoop off,” he says. “That means, be careful not to bump into anybody, and see how long you can hula hoop.”

By the end of ten minutes several kids are still hula hooping, with no sign of letting up. Third grader Florian Wade says he had fun, but he’s exhausted.

“Yeah it was hard,” he says. “My belly hurts.”

Stenson says it’ll be tough to decide who deserves a prize for best hula hooper.

“I think the idea is they all are winners here as a group. They all did a great job. I don’t think we could pick one person.”

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