Hula dancing, surfing, and water games kept McKinley’ honorees happy and cool



Larry Cowne demonstrates proper surfing technique to the top AR point getters at McKinley Elementary School.

EL CENTRO — McKinley School in El Centro celebrated their Accelerated Reading program with a semester luau party to honor top point winners, on Wednesday, May 31.

Mrs. Susan Sanchez, the school librarian, coordinated the wet outing. “This spring we have 102 student winners, up from 84,” she boasted.

First and second graders must earn 40 points, proving they read 80 books, passing at a 100% each. Lower passing scores simply mean a few more books must be read to earn the 40 required points to join the party.  Third through sixth grades must earn 80 points.

“It is very exciting to share,” Sanchez says, “that we even have two kindergarten students this spring that achieved their 30-point qualifier!

Community help this spring came from Target personnel who helped the children make shark tooth necklaces, plastic hula skirts, and supervising the many water games which included dunking, sprinkler limbo, pass the water cup, and fish in the pond.

“It is really cool to promote the literacy of the kids,” Daniel Ulloa of Target said.

After the crafts and educational speakers, Subway provided sandwiches and the school provided cool drinks and chips for a meal.

Students learned about Polynesian hula and Tahitian dancing from teacher Laura Andrade who is a volunteer with both the Community Center of Calexico and Heber’s Sheriff’s Department. She had two assistants with her who have each studied dance for four years: Main Elementary School student Yasmin Olguin who competes solo in Las Vegas, San Diego, and Mexico, and Yacris Figuiroa of Cesar Chavez Elementary School in Calexico. Both girls are only eight years old and already accomplished dancers.

Larry Cowne taught the rudiments of surfing. He explained a wave is known to surfers as a swell and it is really wind energy. How that swell is made, caught, and ridden were explained simply. He said the skills that can be learned from books and magazines before heading out into the water. He knew that from experience since it was his approach, coming from the fact he lived in the desert.

He brought ten boards, leaving more at home, three he made himself. Cowne explained size and width requirements to fit the rider and the type of wave being ridden.

The young students posed for individual photos in front of a “wave” while standing on a board. They also practiced balance on an Indo Balance Board and a homemade one. Students laughed at both their successes and failures as they practiced balancing and acquiring a new skill.

Further laughter was heard from the front lawn at McKinley as students splashed and played in the water, as well as dunking their teachers into a tank with just the right ball shot.