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NOTE: Three photos

Scott Edwards put a whole new spin on education at Ironwood Elementary School last week.

The professional yo-yo whiz was teaching the 650 students at the Marana District school the finer points of his art.

“Hey, Yo-Yo Man!’ shouted one of Christie Faust’s third-graders as he tried unsuccessfully to complete an “outside loop’ with his orange yo-yo. “How do you do that again?’

From across the school’s grassy patio area a little girl’s voice wailed, “Awwwww! My yo-yo died!’

Faust looked around at her students whirling, twirling and catching their yo-yos and noted, “They’re so-o-o-o excited! And the neat thing is that they can do this all summer.’

Edwards, whose father was Texas state yo-yo champ a quarter of a century ago, has been power-throwing, walking the dog and rocking the baby since he was 5 years old.

“I won my first state championship in Phoenix when I was 14,’ Edwards said. “That was in 1978.’

He now works for Tucsonan Don Duncan Jr., whose father created a craze early this century when he imported the yo-yo from the Philippines, where it originated.

The family eventually had to sell the Duncan Yo-Yo Co., but the junior Duncan owns and operates his own yo-yo production company, PLAYMAXX, in Tucson.

“Learning to use a yo-yo really helps the kids with hand-eye coordination, improves their penmanship, and it’s great for them to not watch TV so much,’ said Edwards. “They learn that they can play without having to have something electronic involved.’

Edwards typically spends a week at each school. He leads a schoolwide assembly to familiarize the kids with yo-yoing, then instructs each class individually. He often spends two sessions with the older grades because they are better able to handle the more complex yo-yo tricks.

Ironwood teacher Leslie Kuhn came up with the idea of bringing Edwards to campus when she toured the PLAYMAXX plant with a Brownie troop.

“Mr. Duncan told us that it made him sad that kids didn’t know how to play anymore,’ she said. “Then he told us about Mr. Edwards.’

The appearance by Edwards involves a nominal fee, and he is allowed to sell yo-yos to interested kids at lunch time.

Kuhn took the idea to her principal, Jane Ballesteros, who approved involving the school’s Parent-Teacher Organization.

“Not only did the PTO agree to sponsor the visit,’ Ballesteros said, “but they agreed to buy every child in the school a yo-yo, asking only those who could afford it to reimburse them for the cost. That was really great of them to do that, because some of the children couldn’t afford to buy one.’

The yo-yos, which usually sell for $5 apiece, are discounted to $2.25 per unit for the school.

“I even bought one for our superintendent, Dr. Scott Foster,’ said Ballesteros. “I thought it would give him something to do to relieve stress.’

Kuhn said the yo-yos are serving an unexpected use at the school.

“Usually, toward the end of the school year, the kids tend to get into fights on the playground,’ she noted. “Now, though, they’re all out there laughing, yelling and practicing with their yo-yos.’

Edwards said he enjoys teaching kids about yo-yos and stressing safety tips with them.

“If they swing the yo-yo around their head at the end of the string, which can be dangerous to someone walking by, I take the yo-yo away and make them go to time-out,’ Edwards said. “All in all, though, it’s a dream come true to be making a living doing this.’

Edwards can be reached by calling PLAYMAXX at 623-9981.

Photos by RICK WILEY/Tucson Citizen

PHOTO ONE: Yo-yo guru Scott Edwards helps Cheryl Halson, 9, with her wrist motions. Edwards taught yo-yo tricks to students at Ironwood Elementary School last week.

PHOTO TWO: Derek Schmidt, 9, outlasts his classmates while jumping up and down on one leg and spinning his yo-yo at the same time.

PHOTO THREE: Ryan Sheldon, 10, watches Scott Edwards demonstrate a yo-yo trick. Lindsey Felty, 10, (left) and Monique Taylor, 10, look on.

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