Moving around in roller skates for the first time, Lukas Shumaker admits it was a challenge.

He said it was a little complicated, and he kept falling.

“It was really hard,” the Brownstown Elementary School third-grader said, smiling. “It was really confusing to me.”

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But after roller skating for 45 minutes once a week for six weeks in Jennifer Schneider’s physical education class, Lukas glided with ease and felt the breeze.

“As we kept going, I kept learning, and now, I’m the best I can be,” he said. “I learned to keep my glide for a few seconds and keep skating. Lean forward, that’s the most important thing you need to know. Never lean back. It’s basically to keep your balance.”

Lukas said he’s glad he had the opportunity to participate in Skatetime because he’ll know what to do when he skates at an upcoming birthday party.

“If we didn’t do this these six weeks, I wouldn’t know how to skate, and I would fall a bunch,” he said. “And I wouldn’t be able to help my little brother.”

Plus, skating is a way for him to gain strength and stay active.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “I loved this skating, and I wish this would never end.”

This was the seventh year for Schneider to offer Skatetime for her students. Third- and fifth-graders participated the first two years, but it has since been solely for third-graders.

The skates are rented from Skatetime School Programs of Indianapolis. Parents signing a permission slip and paying a $9 rental fee allowed their child to participate.

Skatetime always has been for five weeks, but the students received a bonus week this year because a snow day prevented a class from participating one day.

The first day involved students getting the skates out of the cabinet, figuring out the right size and learning how to put them on and tie them. They also learned about safety, basic skills and care of equipment.

At first, Schneider placed four mats in the middle of the gym floor, allowing students to place one skate on the mat and the other on the floor.

“That helps them push off and learn balance,” she said.

The next week, she only had two mats out so students would learn not to rely on them.

“They get to skate around, and if they don’t fall more than twice, they can stay on the outside lane,” Schneider said. “If they are still working on some of the beginning skill work, then they would go back to the middle.”

By the third week, the third-graders could skate clockwise and counterclockwise and know how to stop and start.

On the fourth week, it was down to only one mat. From there, Schneider either left it out or removed it, depending on the skill level of each class.

For the last two sessions, she changed it up a little, including opening the gym doors to allow the students to skate to the cafeteria and back and holding a limbo bar for them to go under while making loops around the gym.

Schneider said she always is amazed by the progress the third-graders make.

“They improve each week, and they know they do,” she said. “They can see it, and they just smile more, and they are excited to come each week. The teachers will tell me they can’t wait for it. Once they built that confidence up and realized, ‘I can actually stand up in these things. OK, I can feel what it’s like,’ then they got better each week. Just the smiles on their faces, that’s the biggest thing for me to take away from it.”

Schneider said skating is a good physical activity. After 45 minutes of skating, most of the kids were sweating.

“I just think it’s a great cardio workout,” she said. “They learn how to balance, coordination, and those are some key skills that they take away from it, which I really like to see. I just hope they learn how it feels to be on wheels versus being in your shoes and exercising.”

Third-grader Jack Pace said he didn’t have much experience with roller skating before Skatetime.

“I got pretty good on the second or third week,” he said. “I listened to what (Schneider) said, and I got rhythm. I think it’s all the balance and pushing of your skates. You need to bend your knees and lean forward.”

Classmate Ava Sunderman said she had skated one time before Skatetime.

“I remembered a lot, but I kept falling,” she said.

But with a little extra practice at home, she was able to improve.

“I got to jump with my roller skates on,” Ava said.

Both Jack and Ava were glad to see themselves and their classmates become better roller skaters.

“I was kind of amazed how we can get better in just 45 minutes a week,” Jack said.

Schneider said she would like to see the program offered for other grades at the school.

“It’s a sport that has just kind of gone away,” she said. “It was something that everybody did on the weekends growing up. From the ’50s on, it has been popular. You go to restaurants and they deliver food to you (wearing skates). Now, it’s like, ‘Roller skating? How do we have access to a roller skating rink?’ You just don’t hear of it anymore, so it’s nice that they are providing this opportunity for the schools.”

Schneider said she hopes the students find a skating rink in the area and will want to continue working on their skills.

“Some of them have told me, even the ones that are in second grade that know they are going to skate in third grade, ‘I got skates for Christmas. I’ve been practicing. I’m getting ready,'” she said. “They hear about it, and some of them go get their own skates at home and maybe turn to rollerblading and do that. They might tell me they’ve been to the ice skating rink and tried that, too.”

At a glance

Skatetime School Programs provides schools with the equipment and tools they need to get students up and rolling.

Schools schedule a five- or 10-day block of time and provide shoe sizes for students. Parents sign a permission slip and pay a rental fee.

Skatetime sends a step-by-step how-to guide, including lesson plans, an instruction manual and a free video.

If a school is offering Skatetime for the first time, a skate instructor helps with setup and organization of the equipment and will stay the entire day and give basic instruction to each class.

For information, visit

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at or 812-523-7080.